Sunday, 28 July 2013

RIP.


I first met Douglas at a party twenty years ago when he was about the age I am now. I disliked him instantly, then I have an aversion to English voices invading the country I escaped to. He was interesting, informed and bright but was sadly showing an interest in the cottage next door to us andMike and Dee were looking for a quick and easy sale.

They had been ideal neighbours, they even had well behaved kids and one was a crack shot on the local farm where he shot pigeons to fill our freezer for a very good price. Mike flew for an airline which was needing them to live closer to his base in the south, quite a comedown from flying Harriers or his spell in the Red Arrows display team, he was taken with the fact that Douglas had flown though being Douglas he flew not for the RAF but for the Navy! He was just getting into action and on his way to the Pacific when he said the Japanese heard he was coming and gave in…

Douglas and Betty met in London during the start of the swinging sixties each abandoning their married partners and setting up together. They had a wild time and met people who sound like Who’s Who and read like pages from the colour supplements of the time. Betty worked in a classy shop in central London while once he was shorn of his long hair and beard Douglass rose through the civil service to near the top reporting to a government minister by the time he decided to take early retirement.

No male had ever passed the age of 73 for many generations, his father went into hospital for a check up at that age and never came out… He had decided to go early and enjoy a bit of retirement buying a home some miles out I the country from here only to decide that driving a sit on lawnmower and being miles from a paper shop was not really their style. They had moved on average every two years with his job so another did not seem much of a hassle, that was twenty years ago. When his 73 birthday came there was a huge party and he got more presents than he had ever seen in his life, after all it was going to be his last. Well that was about twelve years ago… Ten years ago he had a sudden lung condition and was rushed into hospital while we were away on holiday, Betty was planning his funeral when we arrived home but he was lucky enough to be seen by the one doctor who had once before seem a similar attack and saved him! A few minutes later and he would have been gone but he survived and was told if he was lucky he might have two or three years more, the doctor started writing a paper on his case and they have been meeting up every year like the old friends they have become past the doctors retirement. He can finally finish that paper since today he got another attack when I visited and though they had a priority ambulance call ready for all that time with his recent other signs of decline he barely made it to the hospital before he died. He had been visiting his friend Mike in a nursing home and hospital before that for nearly two years and had stated that it was his wish to never have the same fate, he sensed that if he left the house he would probably never return.

Would that we could have such a life, only a week ago all four of us were invited out on two nights and he was his sparkling old self if a bit shaky on his use of pronouns…

Where do you find neighbours you can trust implicitly and hand keys over to when you go away and know the house will be looked after better than if you were there yourself? Douglas loved to come and sit in our greenhouse and while away the time to keep from getting orders back home, he would lock the doors we had forgotten to lock, switch off all the lights and post on all the bits and pieces we had forgotten. Only a couple of weeks ago he announced yet again that he had outlived one more of his lifetime friends, tomorrow they will be thinking much the same and wishing that they had set up a tontine...

two weeks...


Two weeks have passed since my last post and I have been quiet because with this mainly warm dry weather I have taken advantage and often worked on the house until the light fades just after ten.

It is by general agreement about seven years since we have had decent summer weather and now investigation has shown how wet rot has gained a foothold in some of the roof windows and will take a chunk of our savings to fix with replacements… Thank goodness for old people’s discount day at the DIY store, nearly £300 worth of paint bought already and another £100 needed by Wednesday at this rate, with luck I shall never actually need to do this job again. All the neighbours are impressed that I am still able to climb the scaffolding and ladders, they just use cheque books! Thankfully they could not see me start painting the gable end where I used the ladder. It is impossible to use it at an angle because the glasshouse is in the way, so I rested one end on the tower and one on the ridge of the glasshouse, which is fortunately very strong, placed a plank on the rungs and worked from there… Two more weeks of good weather and most of this job could be finished. Julie wants a garden party on the 17th of August though many of our friends claim to be going away, perhaps fearing that they will be handed paint brushes!



Our elderly, in body but not in spirit, neighbours are finding life catching up on them and I was called round from the painting one day to help at the cottage next door to help get Douglas up from where he had fallen to the floor. This time thankfully it was not a stroke like last time but an infected toe! He had neglected to get it dealt with and between the infection and the powerful injection given to treat it he became disorientated and unsteady but refused to sit quietly. Once we got him sitting up against the wall and I sat with him we had a surreal conversation as he slowly regained his composure, if we do this many more times people are going to jump to the wrong conclusions! Finally we got him walking with support and settled in an armchair where he slept most of the rest of the day away. They unfortunately have been visiting a friend in a nursing home for the last eighteen months, he is many years younger, and they fear that if they give in to too much medical intervention that is where they will end up and they are not keen. This time they have seen a doctor but with some reluctance!

At least they get the chance, when the phone rang the next morning I had a sense of dread that Douglas had met his end but even sadder it was news that the best of all Clara’s cousins children who had gone out to watch Shakespeare in the Park had a seizure and died aged twenty nine. She had just got her dream job working for a publisher, this was a child who was writing books before she went to school! She had a fabulously bubbly nature and all her life had always greeted me with a warm hug and had often chosen to sit by me at big family meals. Our own generation regularly drop but this is hard loosing one from the next generation and a very bad choice for the first to go...

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

A girl has to do what a girl has to do...



It all started when we arrived home to find that the TV ariel had snapped off while we were away and once the access tower was up...


back wall.


Yesterday was most peculiar, the air outside was not cold or even cool but strangely warm even in the shade! I cannot remember how long it is since this last happened but I took advantage of it and opened all the upstairs windows for cleaning then hung out as far as I dared and painted te walls as far as I could reach on one side of the house. Today resorted to normality and I wore many layers and did not venture high for long but hope the forecast is correct and more high wall will change colour tomorrow. 

When I tell people that I am painting the house they think I mean the windows but they are new plastic coated never to be touched in my lifetime windows, I mean that I am painting the walls. Just a thin coating of paint keeps us dry from the increasingly windy and wet weather…

When I first came to live here half a lifetime ago the front of Bramble Cottage was in need of much care and attention after a couple decades of neglect by Julie’s parents. One academic latterly living in America where he was teaching at a university and an artistic mother who loved the look of weathered surfaces and could not see a way to fund the repairs of anything except emergencies… Then I turned up and she loved the way that I could fix things just using bits and pieces I found lying about, there was a lot of stuff just laying about!

The front of the house had once been painted white but much had peeled off through lack of preparation to the surface before the paint was slapped on. Much of the rest of the house had once been painted a dark elephant grey similar to the rubble stone which made up some of the walls.  Thought a fresh white front would at least give the place an air of respectability, not something they actually wanted to project preferring bohemian chic. 

One day waiting parked outside a paint shop in the town, when such things existed “in” the town, I made a spontaneous decision to buy twenty liters of white masonry paint to start the makeover and put them in the back of the van. When we got home I was surprised by the lack of enthusiasm for my proposed project and even more surprised by the question of why I had bought white! I said that the front had been white and I was just going to make it immaculate again. It seems that it was only white because one day someone knocked on the door and offered to paint the front for an affordable price and white was the choice there being no other colour! They never wanted to see it white ever again!

I returned to the paint shop and told them my story or woe and how they would prefer the walls to be the colour of a dull grey day to blend with the sky. Today if you want to have a non standard colour mixed a few squirts of extra colour added to the basic tin of paint will cost an extra 66%, but these guys just took the white paint added the extra squirt to make it look dirty grey, shook it up on their machine and wished me luck with the painting. That goodwill got them all my decorating business until they were forced to close by city centre rent prices…

I applied a lot more than the suggested two coats to a well prepared repaired and sealed wall so the house has always looked in good condition as the paint ages but after about ten years the surface starts to become weathered from smooth glossy to matt and lichen can start to adhere to it which at least shows that we have very good air quality! People think I am mad when I start talking about repainting since it usually looks better than their own walls… I had long ago thought that if I ever lived long enough I would have done a final thorough repainting before I reached sixty and would then rely on increasingly poor eyesight to stop me worrying about it ever again.

Over the years that original choice of grey which did make the house meld with the sky has slowly evolved through warmer creamier greys to the one which I am starting to cover up which had weathered to a slightly lilac grey with corner stones picked out in a darker colour which strangely weathered and faded to a strange dirty pinkish colour. This was when I first arrived a very grey village, grey stone walls everywhere, a hard andesite igneous rock is the local stone, and greyish Scottish slates on the roofs but slowly houses have started to be decorated with warmer, creamier colours and new builds have warm coloured brick walls and red tiled roofs so our new choice from this year’s ready mix colours of “county cream” is not as shocking as it would have been twenty years or more ago. Until it is all painted we will not decide on which bits to pick out in a contrasting colour or decide what sort of colour that should be.

We have has several wet summers in a row so this job has been  delayed a little longer than I would have liked, a few spots of repair are needed where the guttering has leaked but if this fine weather can keep going for another week or so the tricky front will be finished and the less critical sides can be done in sections when the weather permits.

We decided to splash out on one tin of mixed colour for one of the back walls mostly only seen from the garden, all the advertising says bring along a sample of a colour you like and we will match it with our mixing machine. We did not need to do that since there was a colour on their extensive chart which we liked, the first shop, a DIY supermarket type were surprised that first we would pay the outrageous price and secondly that we wanted such a strong colour which they were not allowed to do! Off to the professional paint supplier and they could mix it in any type of paint except masonry paint! Julie chose something else and thank goodness they were having a promotion on masonry paint that week. Sadly once the second choice had been mixed and shaken the girl serving said that perhaps she could have just lied to the machine about which type of paint base she was using… So no deep foxglove purple for us...

If I don’t post too often for the next wee while you can guess why.


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Thursday, 4 July 2013

I am seventeen today!




I am seventeen today!

Seventeen months since my awakening in Brighton last year…

On Monday I was not sure that I would last long enough to post this but my doctor assures me that I am suffering from wear and tear and not in imminent danger of a stroke or brain tumour killing me, the symptoms are frighteningly similar… 

The journey of transformation will never really end until that last breath but from here on any changes now should only be small. The result of all this work is for me to be living a quiet ordinary life in a fairly small village on the edge of the known universe. Very little real excitement comes our way, choosing paint colour is about as exciting as it gets! I was wondering if there was a good chance of brain malfunction causing a quick way off the access tower whilst painting, now that might have been considered exciting but only for about one second, hence my visit to the doctor!

For some years now transition was at the forefront of my thoughts and many hours were spent each week online reading information and blog posts and of course tapping out my own. So many set out to write to tell their story and record their paths. We are often told that anything once online is there forever but nearly all those blogs have stopped at some point along the journey and sadly many are just deleted, vanishing like melting snow. Several vanished whilst I was away on my trip, names once regularly on the screen gone , hopefully they are like me now just getting on with an ordinary life, something we long considered to be close to impossible…

I suppose transition, as dull as it is most of the time, full of frustrations and endless waiting to skip through the hoops of whatever system has been set up to regiment your route to happiness, is about as exciting a time as many of us will get. More contact and communication with others and with the net friendships forming across the globe… No doubt some of them will continue and some have spilled out into real life which is marvellous but many of those once regular seen names and faces are drifting into faded memories.

How I wish something like the net had been available in my youth, it is hard to forget the wasted decades of helpless misery trapped in an alien body afraid that my cover would be broken and I would be found out for the hideous freak that the mainstream media are so insistent on portraying us as after all these generations of knowledge about our condition. Which other medical condition gets the sufferer hounded to death on a regular basis?

As it turned out even this tall, once scared and ugly monster has managed to become transformed into a creature quite naturally accepted in regular day to day life without a murmur. I hope that this blog has done it’s work of showing that we all take a different path to similar destinations, it worked for me who left it far too late so it should work for you too if you are in the same situation so don’t waste your lives wondering if or when you should do it, life is so much better living with an authentic identity…

The blog has become such a regular part of my life these past few years that I shall continue to record the everyday thrills of jam making or house painting or pulling weeds from the garden but mention of the “T” words may become a rare thing.

For so long I thought that I would be stopped somewhere before the end of the process, I was told so many decades ago that I would not get help in this lifetime and foolishly believed it and hid away from the world. I do so hope that those few bloggers still on my reading list, still looking for a way forward eventually find a way as I finally did. Those who have found the courage to step into the light only to find themselves unable to make headway due to their personal circumstances fill me with sadness. Until our society fully accepts our need for help as a normal thing to let us lead useful and fulfilling lives, people will be led to believe that they have to make the best of their lives and find themselves trapped by the very relationships they thought would save them. I know that I was unable to give as much to my relationship as I wish I had because I lived a well hidden life of deep misery and depression, a half life at best…

If I had not been so miserable back then I would have had more hope for the future and done more work on the house and garden and I would now have been able to put my feet up and read some books and drink a few glasses of wine in the summer sunshine. Instead I am dressed in Julie’s cast off jeans, I never bought anything so tough for myself, and old jumpers for working in. In the past I got some small pleasure being able to wear these clothes of obvious feminine origin so openly, from my new perspective I think they are a bit too butch for my taste…!

Tired after a full day of gardening and painting, the grass was only finally cut at 9pm, after an evening meal i spent a rare couple of hours watching highlights of the Tour de France and a recorded film only to get to post this half an hour after the intended day had ended... Real life really has taken over from net life...


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