Friday, February 28, 2014

The sum of our years

Hi,

Once more into the Blogger interface, dear friends, once more..... and then.... your brain goes... meh. At least, that's what seems to happen to me. Some days I've got loads to say and other times...? Well, it takes a little while for the old noggin to wake up. Ooo. Listen, what's that? Sounds like the 8.48pm train from Ideasville calling in.

Interviews

It's been an odd week for interviews. On the one hand, I've had the good fortune to have a telephone interview with an agency. They rang me up after seeing my LinkedIn profile. Honestly, does anyone have a LinkedIn profile for any other reason than to pimp their CV and hope to get head hunted? :-) I'm not sure about the job itself, but it work continues to slip into Advanced-Colouring-in-Within-the-Lines, rather than Using-Dark-Arts-to-Make-IT-Stuff-Do-Clever-Things-and-Making-People's-Lives-Easier, I guess we'll see.

After than, I had a call from a researcher on behalf of a group called PACE - no, I'd never heard of them - and they're running a research project called RaRE. Or, to break the letters up, Risk and Resilience Explored.  The website and the email stated:
"PACE has been funded by the Big Lottery to undertake a major research study on inequalities in mental health in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in England."
Let's have a think... Trans? Well, trans something or other, check. Former mentalist? Check. :-) So, I completed the email, filled out the survey and thought nothing more of it. Skip on a few days, and I receive a telephone call asking me if I'd be interested in a chat with one of the researchers. Fair enough, says I and so it was, that late Tuesday, I was sat in my car, answering some questions about the ups and downs I've had.

Really, and I'll be frank (it's not Thursday, I'm Lynn on a Thursday), I think I've got off very lightly compared to many people. I wouldn't say I've had anything Really Bad, y'know, the stuff that needs a bold font and underlining to drive the point home. Two bouts of depression and being outed, that's it. That's not to say the depression was a skip through a tulip packed park and the promise of a summer picnic, it wasn't. But I'm still here despite the efforts of the Black Dog. The outing? Well, if that hadn't have happened, I wouldn't be living here, with the lady and children I love now. So, all in all, it's worked out rather well.

The questions were around what episodes of mental distress had I had (see above), what effect did they have on me (namely the outing - it made me cynical and angry for a few months), why did I think trans people have a higher rate of mental problems, did I think trans people drank more than non-trans people, how did being trans affect my body image and a few others I'm afraid I can't remember right now. After each question, I was asked what could be done to help people in a similar situation.

In my late teens, I drank rather heavily to take me away from my worries. I suppose it's a phase some people go through and some stop, and some don't. I know a female friend turned to drink when her problems became very hard for her. She did pull herself out of it, but that's another story. I drank to excess when I was younger, but now, I know it won't help me and I'm not interested. I don't need a couple of pints to make a fool of myself and all the calories in drink aren't good for your waistline either ;-)

On a less flippant note, I think that there can be a higher level of stress for trans people. Certainly those who are not out to family or friend. I know I have to watch what I say and that's one of the really good things about catching up with friends at Chameleons. I don't have to go in Lynn mode - and as you know - there are times when I haven't. It's more the case that I don't have to watch what I say. I can be myself. I don't have to wear a mask. From a family (not with the Ever Lovely Mrs J, though, bless her) and social point of view, I have to be careful and at times, that can be taxing and frustrating that I can't - or won't - be honest.

Looking at what could be done to improve matters, I think education is paramount to the process. The world is a different place than it was when I grew up, but in some ways it's still the same. You may be able to walk down the street (mostly), without trouble, but the same cannot be said for on-line (Twitter Trolls?). I think we need to help educate trans people that it's okay to be themselves. That and we need to educate non-trans people that it's not okay to mock us for what we are and that we are people. Maybe if we can learn to like who we are, we wouldn't get into these states of distress and we come back to the old argument of prevention versus cure. :-)

Chameleons

Pat had been kind enough to organise a visit from a shoe vendor. Given the possibility of a spot of shopping, I decided to go for professional look. Sadly, my plumber's outfit was in the wash, but by lucky happen stance, I managed different attire instead.

I tried something new with my eyebrows too. I had been using an eyebrow pencil, but it wasn't quite working as I'd hoped. I find that my brows tend to get lost a little under my foundation - not that I trowel it on (I hope!), so a little definition isn't a bad idea. I found a suggestion on Pinterest to try using an eye-shadow that's close to your brow colour. The trick was not to go too dark - which I almost did. Duh.... :-) It did make my brows stand out, but with a touch of powder and then the wig on, they looked more shapely than usual. Alison asked if I'd had them shaped, so I guess it must have soften them a little, even if I felt they looked bolder. Something to practice a little, perhaps.

The vendors had brought along a selection of heels, mostly daytime/officey ones, from size nine through to thirteen. If they'd have had any fourteens, I would have been tempted to mount a rescue mission to anyone trapped in waterlogged Somerset. Luckily for my purse, the nines were too big! Bugger :-\ How does that work? If I try an eight in New Look, I'm okay 50% of the time, while an eight in Dorothy Perkins is hoping on my part. Some standards would be nice! :-)

Still, it's not like I don't have enough shoes at the mo, so maybe it's best I save my pocket money a bit longer. Despite the chill in the air, we're heading to spring, so fashion - like the seasons - is on the turn and I much as I love opaques or leggings and boots, I think I'm ready for a change into something brighter.

Take care,
Lynn

Friday, February 21, 2014

Daring to dream

Hey nonny nonny, another week goes by eh? :-) I don't know why that particular phrase is in my head, but sometimes it's best not to question why, and just get on with it.  What can you look forward to (!) in this week's fun packed episode? :-) A bit on shopping (more chin stroking than purchasing), earrings and head hunting.

Blogger Challenge

The challenge this week was to talk about high end or high street. There's a couple of reasons why I'm more high street than high end.


I'm partly Scots, so the concept of paying a lot of money for something, that could be bought for less, rankles somewhat. ;-) At least, that's the stereotype. I don't think Scots people are tight fisted, they only buy drinks for the people they like :-P Jokes aside, I think there's an element of truth in the initial statement. Why spend more, when something that costs less serves the same purpose? Yes, there is a break point with this. The old cliché about buy cheap, buy twice can ring true. For me, what I buy needs to meet a particular quality level. It has to look right, work right and feel right. If it breaks that triumvirate of use, it's a no from me.

Price is a factor. Not just for the comedy reasons, but practical too. There's more than just me in this family and I feel it would be wrong of me to splash out on fancy things, rather really, I'm not going to wear or use very often. That said, it doesn't stop me looking at some items (Desigual, for one) and thinking how lovely said pieces are. Would I want to own something? Maybe one day, but for now, I'm happy to enjoy what I have and be thankful. I remember reading the line it's what you don't have, that makes you unhappy. It's not marketing doublespeak to get you to buy more, but more armchair psychology on if you concentrate on what you don't have, you'll not enjoy what you do. I am, from a family, home, social and - dare I say it - work point of view, very rich. Maybe not in the loaded sense of the word, but I have a lot to be thankful for.

There's also the element that I don't really like the look of high end items. I'm not one for a flash car, or super-fancy shoes, or the latest all-singing-all-dancing gadget. I would much rather than a couple of really lovely tops, skirts or shoes, than I would one expensive outfit. I would be dreading wearing the latter, in case I spilt something on it, or damaged it in some way.

That said, I'm not a quantity versus quality person - especially when it comes to food. Sure, I like to leave like I've eaten something, but I would rather eat less of something really tasty, than chow down on less interesting bulk.

Head Hunting

No, not Lord of the Flies, more the corporate definition - and not the cyberpunk one either ;-) Like a lot of modern folk, I have a profile on LinkedIn. It's useful for seeing how ex-workmates and business contacts have got up to. My CV details are on there because I know recruiters do look at LinkedIn from time to time.

I was quite surprised to get a telephone call from a recruitment firm. The gentleman calling was saying that he had a couple of jobs going in a technology I specialise in. Such roles don't come up very frequently and he said that looking at my experience and skills, I could be a good fit. So, we chatted for a bit about the role and I spent the first part of the afternoon tweaking my CV to highlight said skills.

I'm not desperate to move, but if it's the right job, who knows? We are going through a reorganisation at work, so everything is a bit up in the air. I'm not 100% happy with where I am career-wise, so I guess there's a decision to be made about pinning my hopes on a new role at my current employer, or jumping ship. The benefit of the latter is that it's a foothold into industry and consultancy. Something I've wanted to do for a while. That said, I like my work/life balance, and where I am, is very family friendly. I think it's worth a go and who knows what may happen.

Earrings

By a strange turn of conversation, the Ever Lovely Mrs J and I were talking about earrings. It came up as Little Miss was dancing in the living room, wearing a peg on each ear. Cue a conversation about when it best for girls get their ears pierced, when Mrs J had hers done and the fact that I'd not done mine. I could have in the 90s, but where I was from, the blokes who did had shellsuits and footballer perms. That put me off, which is a bit daft, because as a rocker (grebo?) I would have been okay, and I'd have been sorted for trans stuff later on.

Anyway, Mrs J said that if I had them done now, it wouldn't be so bad. She suggested that if I was going to, it would probably be best if I staggered when I did them. I was surprised by this revelation and I'm not 100% of my feelings right now. Part of me things it would be very nice to have a wider choice of earrings for Thursday, but at the same time, I'm always conscious not to ignore Mrs J's feelings. Something to think about and who knows, maybe I'll be lucky.

Absent 'Friends'

Oh, before I go. My sister posted a video called I Had a Black Dog, His Name was Depression. It's an animation of images from the excellent book of the same name. Even now, I find the drawings and narration wonderfully moving and - having been through depression and survived - I can't recommend it enough. Enjoy.



So, I don't miss my Black Dog. He was with me for a while and he brought me low. Through the help and love of family and friends, I realised I didn't have to let him rule my life. I could - as the video says - play my own tricks against him and each little victory became a little longer each time.

Just listening to the words from the film, it brings tears to my eyes. Not because what happened to me, but that the Black Dog is gone and for that, I am grateful.

Take care,
Lynn

Friday, February 14, 2014

“The future us already here. It's just unevenly distributed.”

Hi folks,

It's Friday night again and it being February, Winter is giving us a last hurrah before the gentler turn of Spring. Except this time around, Winter's invited its best mates High Tide and Climate Change to the party.... and they've all been watching Changing Rooms with Keith Moon. This is not going to end well. :-)

Floods

Glib comments aside, it's not to bad here. Yes, the wind and the rain are rather strong, but by no means are the Jones Massive - nor any of our clan - bailing out, or having to be evacuated due to flooding. I know it's very British to talk about the weather, but there are times when there's a point, rather than an conversational opener. I'm not affected by it - so far (fingers crossed) - however, that doesn't stop me thinking what we could be doing to help those that are. I find it annoying that our *ahem* Great Leaders have flocked south west in search of photo shoots and a chance to Be Seen Doing Things. Things like saying soothing words, walking about, looking at things, saying more soothing words and.... being audibly mauled by the victims of the cuts and failings of an environmental policy. But don't worry, it'll all be fine because money is now being found - as the River Thames is now slowly rising and the posher parts of England may be at risk. Cynical? Moi? :-D

Family Stuff

Wee Man did well this week. He stormed one of his English tests - no, not how to talk about the weather - but after some top suggestions by the Ever Lovely Mrs J, he seems to have listened and followed her advice. The result? 98% in his test. Good lad. Oh, and the team he was in for an inter-school competition won gold medals. That really pleased him, which is great, because the Jones Massive are not very sporty.

It was Mrs J's an our anniversary this week - bad planning on my part, I mean, what numpty starts going out with a fancy lady just before Valentine's Day eh? :-) We've been together twenty years - although we didn't get married until the late 90s. We're almost at the point were we've been together more than we've been alive. Funny, I couldn't - and don't want to - imagine life without her.

Chams

We were scheduled to have a visit from Glitz & Glam this week, however, with the weather being rather scary, Sally emailed in to say she couldn't make it. Apparently, things were worse in her neck of the woods, than down here. Nevermind, that's been put back a month and next week we've a visit from a shoe retailer. I've put in a request for some daytime shoes, rather than the more.... disco... versions they sell.

I spied a dress in the sales and after checking the finances, I asked if I could order one. I'm not one of these blokes who just goes and buys expensive things on a whim. I'm a bit like that with sarnies for lunch - although I do feel they should be more of a treat than an expectation - so I like to check first. Anyhoo, bless her, Mrs J said I could have that for our anniversary. Ladies, the way to a trans partners heart is through their wardrobe.... and not in a Narnia kinda way, either.

I got a text on the Thursday morning, saying that my item had been delivered to the local shop, so that made it perfect timing for Chameleons. I had already packed a bag, but I'd had one of those what to wear? moments. You know the one, you open the wardrobe, see all that you've got and struggle to put an outfit together. I'd planned two looks because my T-Powers were on the blink that day. Something a bit office smart, because it's nice to have a break from a dress, and also something more casual, because much as I like heels, sometimes biker boots rock more. :-)

I was also a bit naughty in that I treated myself to a matt red lipstick. I've been seeing this look for a while and thought I'd give it a spin. Bold lippy isn't something I do very often, but I was pleased with the colour and how well it lasted. I had hoped to get a Poppy King Rain Drops Lip Crayon from Boots, but apparently that had been a limited edition. Doh! So I went with Number 7 instead. I'm not usually a fan, but this worked just fine. The colour didn't bleed (probably helped by a lip liner pencil) and lasted all night (probably helped by LipCote). All in all, both items made me feel rather special and it's difficult to put a price on that.

Oh, talking of money; the new membership fee for Chameleons came in last night. Rebecca was kind enough to be door monitor, so it was a case of paying as soon as you came in. No chance for anyone to slip by and slip out. With her diligence and a pretty packed night, the funds did well, which is good news.

Blogger Challenge

In all the fuss and introspection of last week - oh, and thank you all for you advice, it was both kind and helpful of you all - I missed on last time's Blogger Challenge. The task was to share you most loved, or most hated, book.

I used to read a lot. Much more than I do now. I always say you make time to do the things you want. I don't want much TV, but I do spend time reading blogs, writing this one, messing about on social media, watching old cult series on Netflix, or playing the odd computer game (mainly the big sandbox games).

I read a lot of fantasy novels as a teenager. Some were great, some pulp, some terrible; but they did what all good books do, IMO, and that is they take you away. I don't know about you, but when I really get into a book, I stop seeing the words after a time and my imagination seems to run things instead. It's a great feeling when you get there and I think that's a sign of a really good novel.

I got into a bit of a reading rut as a teenager. I tried horror, but it just wasn't scary. I guess a heavy diet of role-playing and horror films made me shrug. Thrillers? Well, I know some folk like them, but to me, they felt a little like a chase scene stretched out and I couldn't get into them.

Then a friend suggested I tried William Gibson's Neuromancer. It looked like sci-fi, which wasn't really my usual poison. I mean, space ships, laser guns and stuff? Seen that in Star Wars, right? I gave it a spin and how wrong I was.... :-) I remember sitting down on the sofa at home on Saturday morning, with a copy from the local library... then it was tea time. I tore into it.

Did the book change my life? Did I have a  Moment of Clarity? Not so much in a dramatic way, but it did alter my view of books. The world - in the book - was not a nice place. It wasn't good versus evil, not in your classical fantasy sense. Here, everyone had their own agenda and while a lot of the characters were flawed, they had personality. No-one was bad because they were, there was a reason rather than an author's foot note saying Evil Bad Dude. The characters felt like people, rather than stereotypes. Ironically, as the cyberpunk literature would rise in popularity, clichés would begin to appear, but then isn't that true of anything that becomes popular?

After reading that, I read more and more sci-fi. I tried a few more fantasy books, but.... I felt like I'd burned out. That I'd read so much that that ship had sailed. I just couldn't get into them and even to this day, if I try and read a fantasy book or play a computer game that's set in that world, I really struggle and more often than not, I give up. So yeah, that book did change how I read and still has.

The other day someone asked if we were living in a world that the cyberpunk writers wrote about. We may not have virtual reality, but connectivity is pretty much everywhere in major cities. We have our smartphones rather than our implants. Wearable computing seems to be THE NEXT BIG THING - or so the IT media and resellers are telling us. :-P Most of us happily upload where we are, what we're doing and who are friends are to a company who uses that data to push adverts to us. Our government security agencies regularly collect our Internet data and most of us are not upset about this. So, yeah, I'd say we're living in the future, but it's still better than the 80s ;-)

Kids and Books

The only exception to my failings in fantasy is The Hobbit. I read this to Wee Man a year before they announced the film - just by dumb luck. I think reading to children is a different thing than reading for yourself. Both the Ever Lovely Mrs J and I read to both our kids. We've done so since they were old enough to sit and listen. Thankfully, they are both of an age were we can read books with chapters to them. That's not to say I've not loved reading Room on the Broom, Smelly Bill, Captain Pike & the Baby or The Gruffalo to them as they've grown up. I may end up keeping a few as they grow up, because there's something wonderful about children's books and the emotions - joy, giggles, sharp draws of breath as the hero struggles, etc - that kids show when read to. I've been through Roald Dahl's works and even now, I still love reading Fantastic Mr Fox. The copy I owned as a child, that feel to pieces, I'd read it so many times. Now, it's more a case of knowing which silly voice to do at the right time, rather than worrying if the pages will drop out.

What about you? Bothered about books, or do you prefer other media?

Take care,
Lynn

[ Today's quote is from William Gibson, speaking in The Economist ]

Friday, February 07, 2014

Stop when it hurts

Hey all,

Unusually, I'm going to write about something that happened in my male life. It's not something I do very often, but here goes. Those of you with good memories may remember I did some stand-up comedy last year. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd have a second go. It's been a struggle to find any open mic nights in my area, but as luck would have it, I found one and got myself booked in. Before you wonder, no, I didn't do it in Lynn mode. :-) I was fully prepared with lots of stories, gags, etc and I'd whittled that down to five minutes of new material. It was well practised and I knew the rules about the voting mechanism. In short, midway through your five minute slot, the MC will get some of the audience to vote on how it's going. Get enough thumbs up and you stay on for the rest of the slot. Thumbs down? Well, you get the idea.


So, how did it go? In a few words: not well. :-/ But at least they didn't boo me off stage - which they did to one poor guy.

I was on half way through the evening and by then, the audience seemed warmed up. It was a young-ish crowd and it seemed the only folk around my age, were some of my fellow newbie performers. The lights came on, I took the stage and went into my routine. Three jokes in - which I used on a difference audience - and.... nothing. I could have been a talking clock. I changed tack and launched into the other elements. I remember during the training last year, that if something fails, just move on. Keep hitting them with what you've got and hope something will stick. It didn't. I came to the end of my second theme and I saw the red lights come on and the get off you're done music came on.

I felt very let down and to an extent, I do now, although a few night's sleep have worn the sharper edges of disappointment off.

Where did I go wrong? That's what I keep asking myself. I think the problem with dying on stage - to use a well loved cliché - is that it really knocks your confidence. I guess I'd been hoping that the gig would be like the one I did previously. I mean, the people in the audience seemed good natured, I'd practised and practised, stuck to the training (don't ramble, keep it sharp, etc) and yet.... instead there was the slow whistle of air rushing by, no whumpf of a parachute opening at the end, just bang.... and stop.

Was I doing the wrong material? Was my delivery off? I think it had been so long that I was more nervous than I should have been. I asked for some feedback when I got home and the vendor put simply: your material and presentation need work. Hmm. Yeah, well, I kinda guessed that. :-)

Speaking to a few stand-up mates who where there. They said that what I'd done was okay - I could hear them chuckle as one had kindly video'd it for me - but would probably have gone over the heads of most of the audience. That sounds like I needed to know who I was performing for and by not having enough 'back catalogue' I couldn't turn my act to something they wanted. Which, judging by what my mates said, seemed to be more about sex and close to the knuckle observation / sexism. Whereas, I'd gone for slightly surreal and nothing too rude. Wrong material and wrong crowd and iffy nerves. Altogether, not a cocktail anyone would want. Oh well! :-\

So, I guess one of the questions - other than why did I do it? - is what was I hoping to get out of it? Truth? I was hoping for it to go as well as it did the first time. I was hoping that I would finish my set and it would make people laugh. That's the only two things I wanted out of the evening. There was a final where you'd do a 60 second performance to see who'd be King of the Hill, but I wasn't there for that.

A work mate who is into comedy asked me a little more and asked me if I was looking for validation. I guess I am to an extent. I mean, why stand up in front of a group of strangers and try to entertain them?

The Ever Lovely Mrs J said that she was worried about me - before I went - and was both empathetic and understanding when I got home. She asked me what I'd wanted out of it. Again, I repeated it was just for fun and she said something along the lines of it doesn't sound like you had much fun. Do you really want to put yourself through this to get a good night? As usual, Mrs J is the wise one. :-) She said that I'm a bit of a dreamer, and that's true; I am. I'm not dreaming of the lights, nor a career. I'd just like to be good at it.

But, I guess the real question is this: do you persist at something because you fancy a go at it? I mean, my temperament (I wear my cynicism as armour ) is ill-suited to rejection and much as I might be able to make folk I know laugh, or entertain an audience at work, am I actually suited to doing stand-up? How much pain have am I willing to put myself through when really, I'm not hungry for success. Maybe it's better to enjoy what I've got - chuck in occasional gags during training or presentations, and keep my thoughts to this blog.

In short: do you stop when it hurts?

Take care,
Lynn
x