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Getting Things Ready

Clearing the Air

The short stretch from the cold garage was a careful series of meandering right and left turns through overgrown decaying foliage and the path was barely visible until it straightened out back to the house.  Sauntering along it struck me how the garden was so drab and overlooked and how the small pond was now dry and lifeless.  I didn’t know it then, but this was an ominous sign of things to come.

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She busied herself with the usual morning routine while the autum rain and gusty wind began to batter the kitchen window.  A familiar quick knock and the whoosh of mail hitting the floor caught our attention as the bright orange glow of the postie’s jacket faded through the smoky-glass pane as he continued his walk.  Mum had always hated official looking mail…but I picked it up anyway and handed it to Dennis.

Something was bothering her, I knew because she always immersed herself in some pointless radio debate before letting-off-steam on a subject far closer to home. We knew each other too well. 

Hugging a hot mug of tea I stood by her as she rinsed the last of the cutlery while the rain and wind battered the window more intensely.  Mum gave me the familiar sideways glance that spoke volumes…and without looking dropped a handful of cutlery on the shiny metallic draining board making me jump as it clattered.  Sensing that she was about to explode into a rage, I quickly left for the bathroom, but the door was locked. I took a seat next to Dennis reading the teletext news instead.  She followed me into the lounge and I couldn’t escape her outburst, but she was right:
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“I’m worried about this Hilary…can’t you find a rented place here in Brid’, I’d be much happier knowing you weren’t stuck out there at this time of year - whatever next!” she cried.

“I know, but I want to be happy and won’t be until I get back to Scotland, it’s been on my mind for a while” I say as I finish drinking the last dregs of tea as if it were my last. 

My pride didn’t reveal to her the other factor, which led to this situation in the first place...Leo and his new American fiancée Bree, destroying everything.

“So how are you going to manage with Alice?” Mum said shaking her head in dismay. “What about accommodation, it’s nearly winter for goodness sakes!” she exclaimed.

“Oh, Alice will be in the trailer and we will camp most nights…we will be warm enough Mum it’s OK, I can’t leave my cat here, besides Leo and Bree don’t want her”, I cried.

My family don’t want a cat in this house either, especially Grandad who everyone is treading around carefully. 
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So I decide that I have to go along with their ways in order to use them as an emergency stopgap until I am ready to leave.  Anyway Mum is allergic to cats, but I don’t want to upset her…she’s the only one really trying to help me here.

“Mum, I don’t want there to be any friction between us because there’s been enough over the years already” I uttered.  “I have to do this, I’m sorry!” I cried.

“It’s nearly winter, and it’s getting damn cold out there.  Are you going to be OK?” asked Mum worryingly.  
“Yes, I have to do this now…there’s no future left for me here in Brid' - I need a new start”, I affirmed.

I realise this situation is also a convenient excuse for a cycle adventure, but I am also aware Alice needs looking after properly and is warm and secure enough in the trailer as I’m cycling along.

Many things have to be thought about and check-listed before we leave…so much to do.

The reality of sleeping on a cold concrete floor in an unheated garage is not pleasant-even if there is a ‘roll mat’ to lie on - but acclimatisation to cold weather is highly underestimated and besides, I hated the thought of sleeping on a couch in a lounge full of the day’s stale smoke.

I accepted my situation was between a rock and a hard place and the hardplace here was a cold concrete floor, which if I wanted to live-on for the next fortnight would take some sorting out. 

Somehow I managed to get the old furniture and things moved to one side giving Alice and I enough room to sleep and to store what was left of my belongings.

Ordering the Kit

The days of preparation soon turn into a fortnight of it and items are arriving in the mail all at once. 

The first is an Avenir ™ cycle trailer with hood, designed to carry a small child so it should be fine for Alice. 
When I open the box at first sight it looks good, but when I assemble the trailer I’m disappointed in the quality of the base fabric...which is thin, but not waterproof and sags and is too close to the ground when I add weight onto it.  
Also there’s no support to hold the weight under the fabric at the base of the trailer.  

I came up with a solution to the sagging and it was to use the cat litter tray as a flat base on the inside of the trailer so the weight can be distributed evenly…during the short test this seemed to work, but it wasn’t ideal and there was little enough time for all the other kit checks.

Not the actual cycle and trailer...but you get the idea
Still, the rest of the trailer looks good and waterproof and the tyres of the two axle wheels are repairable if there’s a puncture. 

 The main thing is it does the job for a budget price and I plan to do another test run with cycle and trailer. 

The trailer issues are taking-up more time than expected and as the days are getting shorter very quickly I sense the urgency in getting as much done as possible. 

The tent has arrived two days before I leave.  

It’s a two man Vango™ and it appeared OK after I erected it in the back garden and checked the zips - it looks sturdy.
The author - testing out the new tent and sleeping bag

I performed another test on the trailer with more weight added and Alice inside.  
The tow-bar connection was tricky at first but eventually found the best method of securing it correctly to the frame of this budget bicycle. 

The five mile test with trailer felt heavy and sluggish and I was surprised how much extra effort it took to build momentum with it.  

The worst thing was hearing Alice crying in the trailer, but I knew she would get used to it after a while.  She was free to turn around inside and even had her cat litter tray to go in if needed.

I already had a sleeping bag, but for good measure purchased a new down one.  I also had plenty of other outdoor items from other small trips such as waterproofs and the essentials for cooking including a CampingGaz ™ stove and would buy more cannisters and food tomorrow. 

When we returned home after the five mile test ride I informed Mum and Dennis that I planned to leave on Monday. 

It’s already Friday 30th October [2009] so the pressure’s on to get stocked-up and bags packed soon.

You Can Choose Your Friends...

“Why are there always issues with you Hilary?” I heard from another room.  “Why can’t you sort your life out and be normal and settled like everyone else!” continued Grandad in an impatient patronising tone.

Grandad before he became ill - aged 86 (2002) 

At this point I realised that there was definitely no hope of smoothing things out with Grandad before I left, but I also knew this ninety-four year old was very ill.  We weren't sure what was wrong exactly, but roughly a year later diagnosis showed it was cancer. 

 “It’s the story of my life Grandad” I said briefly for fear of being accused of being disrespectful if I said anymore.

  I have been thrown out for less in the past…and yes in retrospect I have been my family’s number one scapegoat, but it’s taught me many lessons…I’m thankful for that.

It now seems inevitable that I am making this trip…it’s a risk, a big risk for many reasons, least of all because it’s Winter and I’m on a very tight budget, but mostly because I am a transsexual woman and this makes even more vulnerable. 

I am not naive and don’t take dangerous risks, but the wrong place and time can change things very fast.  I believe I am ready for almost anything and the end goal will be one hundred percent worth it…I can sense it.  I must be brave and make the effort.

The author at home in Bridlington in 2007 - (four years after the change change operation)
I continue to review my own flaws and where I went wrong in this family, but then I realised it’s been difficult since I was a small child.  
Every family has its scapegoat, but I refuse to totally give up on them for the sake of mum, despite the quarrels and being scolded for asking where my Dad was since they split when I was four.  It’s not been easy for my brother either, but that’s another story.

Today, though I feel there’s nothing to lose by leaving here. 
Dennis is far from the easiest to please either and the most pig stubborn in his views and ways, but he has been good to mum and grandad.  He dislikes it when I am at the house because I open all the windows to let the smoke out and as he knew I hated smoking he couldn’t wait for me to be gone.  J

My transition since 2000 was not the biggest issue he had with me, it was my socialist leanings which concerned him and as a regular Marxist Society member whilst studying International Relations with Modern History at the University of St Andrews from 2001, I devoured as much material and listened to as many people as possible before finally relinquishing anything to do with political theory and ideals in 2007, but he never forgot it.  

 The University of St Andrews, Scotland. 
 The Dept.of International Relations is located to the left of the building on the first floor.  

Well, at least I tried to learn about the subject as I did with Capitalism, but most people aren’t prepared to learn anything the hard way unless they have to. This is the only way to really understand what it all means.

Anyway, Dennis is not a bad man at all and I prepared myself mentally to put any negative emotions I had of the family and go forward with a new attitude.

Now is the time to move forward-literally-and grasp the handlebars by the horns to steer and peddle North. 

Since this last turn-of events, becoming homeless effectively…I felt a closeness to mum that I hadn’t known for a very long time.

Perhaps she’s finally accepted my gender change is right for me and that Leo and Bree are partly responsible for my circumstances.

Yes, the gender change is another story altogether, but you can imagine the upheaval it caused…but I didn’t exactly choose this path as hard as that is to believe.  

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It's been bliss since I told them I was leaving on Monday and they've made an effort to be nice, but I knew it was on the definite condition that after this weekend I was gone. 

Anticipation at all Levels

Like all weekends, if you value them they don’t last long. 
Between packing and cups of tea and meals I had time to think - what went through my mind and body was fear.
 I kept questioning if I was doing the right thing, if we’d be OK and if we’d get by without much money.

 It’s not as if my family is well-off either…but my mum did give me two hundred Pounds, but that would cover about four or five nights of accommodation only…but I daren’t ask for more.

What I fear may happen to me
  She didn’t have it anyway. Mum spent all her retirement looking after my grandad and Dennis and she was a domestic goddess by nature.  

This was mainly my fault for not saving much, but I had bitten the bullet and tomorrow morning we were leaving. 

Have I packed this or packed that?

Don’t forget the cat food and litter tray!

 I can’t believe I am doing this!


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