Tuesday, 26 February 2008

London Calling

As you see at the bottom, thanks to my brother's generosity I now have a decent Digital Camera. So its pictures away!

07.55 Stoke on Trent – London Euston
8.15 am
I’m off to London today for a meeting. I’m currently sitting on the virgin rail train tapping this out on my PDA. Its probably not a good idea as I this is one of those tilting Pendelino trains and being such a wuss, I will certainly get travel sick.
I got heckled this morning. Waiting to cross the road to the station a white van full of 3 “men” stopped in front off me. One of these waved sarcastically at me, and when they pulled off I heard a couple of whistles and whoops aimed in my direction. If I was more deluded then I may have thought they genuinely fancied me, but as long as there are mirrors in this world I know they didn’t. It didn’t let it bother me. I’ve had it before but it is mercifully very rare these days. Is it bad of me that just for a moment I wished I could hear the crash bang and then woof of that van ploughing into a wall and catching fire (yes it is!). Sitting here as I write has reminded me of some of my early train journeys, which I found to be some of the most tricky of transition hurdles to overcome. On a train you are captive. There is no escape route. There is so often a drunken skunk with a can of lager or overly inquisitive child to contend with. I used to spend the whole journeys avoiding any eye contact for fear of being read*. I’ve just had my ticket checked. It’s probably my imagination but I thought I'd heard a clipped “sir” after he said '' thank you''. I ought to have stopped looking out for these slurs by now, but that is just how I am.
I do like London. It used to confuse me, but we get on better now. It’s a matter of getting up to pace with it. I get off at Euston which is dead handy for Unison’s head offices, which are just opposite the British Library . This area of London is definitely the socialist quarter with a number of union HQs dotted around. I feel at home here. Occasionally we have used the NUT (National Union of Teachers) offices. Don’t know what it is about teachers, but when I’m there I feel like I need to sit up straight and face the front. Enough for now as I'm starting to feel dizzy so I'm going to shut my eyes and put my head between my knees (not easy when your body already fills the gap between the seats).
13.35 London Euston-Stoke on Trent
On my way home. Meeting was a good old fashioned union / management bun fight, with not too much blood shed. On my way back to the station I passed the famous (in the trans community anyway) Transformations shop. These shops used to advertise in the back of Sunday papers. They purported to be a one stop solution for all your trannying needs (I had promised vix that I wouldn't use the word tranny as sometimes it is used as a pejorative term). The advert used to feature an image, one half a business man the other a glamorous lady. The stores offered a “changeaway experience” where for a few hours you were transformed into the woman of your fantasies. You could be a bride, a glamorous socialite, a tart or even a secretary, all in the palatial surroundings of a smoked glass windowed shop just off the Euston road. Back when I was a closeted and frustrated 18 y/o this seemed the stuff of dreams. I even phoned a few times, just to pretend to book a session. I must admit back then it was nice to talk to anyone without feeling shame, even if they wee trying to flog me stuff. I never did visit back then. About a year or so ago I had some time before a train so I popped in out of curiosity. It actually made me feel quite sad. I found it all fairly seedy. There were a few men browsing the magazines, looking semi shifty, and one t girl who had obviously enjoyed the “changeaway”, but looked so over made up (even by my early standards!) The stuff on sale was sub sex shop fare (not that I would know, Vicky & Debs told me!), such as really short pvc skirts, large shoes with preposterous heels and various breast forms and hormone creams that claimed to give you a voluptuous figure, all for an extortionate price. I'm sure these places serve a purpose and I have probably become a Trans snob, but they do seem to exploit the desperation of a closetted trans woman, who will pay anything to feel a just a little bit like a woman for a few snatched hours.
I had to run the usual Euston station gauntlet. Armed with a salad in hand (well there was lettuce and tomato on my burger) I took up my stance on the station concourse. I needed to ensure a seat on the train. The crucial thing is to be able to respond in an instant. The problem is that they don’t announce which platform until the very last minute. I positioned myself at the high number platform end. Experience told me that platforms 12 to 15 were most likely, but you can never be sure. I scouted the opposition. Lots of them had heavy looking suitcases. Good, that gave me a racing chance. . The concourse was now full. Everyone's neck was craned, so as not to lose sight of the Departure Board. The gamble is that the nearer you stand to the front the more you have to crane. Our prey was the 13.35 to Manchester Picadilli, stopping at Stoke-on-Trent and Milton Keynes. No one dared to take their eyes off the board for fear of missing the 'hole shot' (I watch too much US sport) . Nothing could distract us. Even if a naked Dr House MD appeared pushing a barrow full of free chocolate (hang on a min while I consider that….. ) we wouldn’t flinch. I stared at the words 'Train Being Prepared" for so long that I feared may brain had crashed like this PC sometimes does, and that I had actually missed the words change. Then, the flag went down, the starting pistol cracked, the rabbit passed the trap. "Now Boarding at Platform 14" flashed up. As one we all picked up our suitcases, laptops and handbags. The hunt was on. We all moved as fast as we could without ever appearing to run. We should enter commuters in that 50k walk in the Olympics. Nobody in Britain wants to seem desperate for a seat, but we all know what each other is really thinking. This is of course except for that First Class ticket elite, with their reserved seats, excessive leg room, waiter service and Daily Telegraphs (I am stil a chippy northern socialist at heart, unless, of course anyone offers me a free upgrade). I did make it in time to find a seat. This is Darwinism at its best. For "Survival of the Fittest" read "Comfort for the Swiftest". Anyway the train is tilting and I’m dizzy again, so I will shut my eyes.
Now where was I with that Dr House / Chocolate dream... "My neck hurts!"

"Making myself dizzy" , "Dreaming of a Chocolate House"


brad said...

That's weird that they wait until the "last" minute to post the platform.

Brits are always perfect ladies and gentlemen and don't rush, and that's of course how there was a seat for you.

I often write my blog on my PDA, especially if I'm traveling.

brad said...

Hmmm, thinking about how I wrote that, it could be taken the wrong way. I meant that you, like the other ladies, were not rushing, and managed to get seats using that method.

Jenny Harvey said...

Dont worry Brad
I would never take your comments the wrong way.
As a nation we are generally polit so when we "rush" and shove each other we always say "excuse me" and "sorry"