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Sarah, The Bringer of Tea - Satnav Saturday, Featuring Concrete Cows!
20th December, 2007
01:22 pm

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Satnav Saturday, Featuring Concrete Cows!
Saturday was busy. the_local_echo had a long standing arrangement to go to a meet up from the trans-partners online support group she's involved in. She'd not been to one before, so was curious, but aside from providing chauffeur support, I wasn't allowed to know that much about it because it's specifically for partners of transpeople only, and transpeople themselves are not allowed. I guess this is fair enough - the Translondon groups I go to are open only to those identifying as trans, but it does raise the question of whether one or both partners in a relationship between two transpeople would be allowed to join...

Anyway, the meet was in Milton Keynes, a place I'd only heard about in rumour and legend (and in a previous life, while learning to fly, flew over on a navigation exercise once), but had never been too. All I knew about Milton Keynes was that it was a city constructed from scratch on a US-style grid pattern (but with roundabouts at the nodes), and that there are apparently concrete cows.

My new magic satnav phone got us to the venue with no problems, and I dropped Sylvia off and waited in the carpark for her to phone me to let me know that she'd found the rest of the group. She duly did, so I said I'd wander off to find a shopping centre (I understand Milton Keynes was something of a pioneer in terms of having one of the first major shopping malls in Europe, or something), and she should call me when she wanted me to come and get her. She bade me farewell, with instructions to get a photograph of any concrete cows I happened to come across.

So I found my way into the town centre (right a bit, bit more, then up, then left a bit, diagonals are for the weak), and to my surprise found that parking seemed to be more scarce and more expensive than the rather grim situation we have in the medieval city of Cambridge. Perhaps the proximity to Christmas was to blame - at least I didn't have to sit in a traffic jam on my way to the mall, which I would have done in Cambridge.

I parked up and proceeded to attend to what was most important - I found a Costa and got a cup of chamomile tea. While I was drinking it I heard a passing couple mention Debenhams, and decided it would be a good idea to check to see if they had the final bridesmaid dress I'm missing to complete the set of four. Despite Debenhams claiming they were scouring the country for me, I managed to wander into the Cambridge branch on spec and find the third a few days previously, and I was just missing a size 16. I figured it was worth a try.

On the way over to Debenhams, in a part of the mall which couldn't decide whether it was indoors or outdoors (and hence seemed just right for accumulating cigarette smoke - the absence of which from public places I've started to take for granted since the ban this summer), I came across the following scene:



Super-duper new phone to the rescue again! Compared to the nasty little webcam in the old phone, the 2 megapixel camera in the new Nokia is more than good enough for web work when the subject is well lit. I sent the above image to Sylvia as a picture message, to brighten up her afternoon.

Apparently I was lucky to see them - the cows normally live in a park somewhere (despite the stereotype, it seems that Milton Keynes is about 20% parkland and the residents somewhat resent the widespread belief that their city is a concrete desert), but were on loan to the mall for a while.

Anyway, I made my way to Debenhams and waqs delighted to discover that they not only had the dress, but also 3 of the matching 4 bolero jackets we need. Mission almost accomplished! Furthermore, on my way back I popped into a branch of Clarks to see if they had the leather boots I'd had my eye on, and searched every branch in Cambridge and the West End for, in a size 8. They didn't, not in black anyway, but on the offchance I asked if they had them in brown, and to my astonishment they did!

I would post a link, but Clarks' website is extremely annoying, but suffice to say they're the most gorgeous victorian style boots with a lace up front (there's a zip - the lacing is merely decorative), and which are fine for smart casual wear (the heels aren't too mad), but also sufficiently kinky to wear to places which are a little more fun. It was a lot of effort to get the zip up on the left boot, my left foot being slightly broader than my right, but I was determined that if I managed it, I'd buy them.

And I did, and they're now mine! And they're actually not too painful to walk in! Hurrah!

After that, I called Sylvia (my parking ticket was running out of time), and she said she expected to be finished in half an hour or so, so I drove back over to the restaurant where I'd left her and waited in the car park. Turns out the support group's gossip took longer than expected, so I just folded the driver's seat all the way back, turned Radio 2 on, and had a snug lie down and a listen to the radio for a bit.

Eventually, Syvia called and asked if I'd mind coming in - apparently someone wanted to see what I looked like (and I think she wanted to show me off a bit). It turns out that most of the group's partners were much older transitioners than me, and this seemed to colour the conversation lots, and I got the impression that Sylvia felt a little isolated. From what she said, their experience of their partners' transitions wasn't a lot like our shared experience, and the other partners seemed to find a rallying point in a shared hatred of Russell Reid. I found myself feeling sad that they felt that way, and am glad I wasn't in there for more than a few seconds, because I may have found biting my tongue difficult. They're entitled to their opinions though.

And so it was that we left Milton Keynes, much maligned for not being a proper place, but with shops that had what I wanted to buy (I spent far too much money that day), and with concrete cows that I had to admit, were actually kinda cool.

The day wasn't over though - I'd previously arranged to give scattykat a hand moving some stuff from storage where she used to live to her and christinaalley's flat in Wimbledon. A quick reprogramming of the Satnav and we turned south, towards London.

It's about here that I need to write out, 1000 times, "It's not far round the south circular, and it's not a weekday, I'll not bother with the M25" is never a sensible thing to think.

So eventually I got there - for the world's first megacity, the road system in London in general is an embarrassment, but south London is far, far worse. We got there eventually, where christinaalley and rozk were waiting for us, I dropped Sylvia off, dropped the rear seats and set off to meet scattykat where she was waiting. The traffic was still awful (Wimbledon high street seems to have had its traffic light system designed by the same people who presided over the horror that is Newmarket Road in Cambridge - the traffic lights seem deliberately timed to evoke congestion from nothing), so I found the satnav incredibly useful in plotting routes via the back streets. Three round-trips later and the stuff was all moved. On the way back I'd learned my lesson and just found the biggest, fastest route away that I could (the A3), hit the M25 and then made my way back round to the A1(M).

The trusty Nokia 6110 Navigator was to save our bacon yet again though - the motorway was closed at Hatfield, and although I cunningly avoided the queue to get onto the diversion route (don't need a satnav to do that - it's a part of the world I travel through a lot when going to electrolysis sessions by car, so I've learned all the back routes south of there), when we met up with the diverted traffic it was stationary. That I didn't know how to get round, but the phone did, and we were home about 45 minutes later, at the end of a very long day in which I'd discovered a new, exciting and slightly weird city, explored the murky depths known only as "Sarf of the Rivah", and lived to tell the tale, all thanks to modern technology and a freebie from Vodafone.

However did we cope without modern technology?

(21 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
From:(Anonymous)
Date:20th December, 2007 08:57 pm (UTC)
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I'd certainly hope that some form of partner-support is available for trans partners of trans people! I am one of those, and it's weird, let me tell you!

I've found that there is a definite age division within the trans and trans partner communities. This is only natural, to some extent, I figure. However it does make getting support more difficult for all.

I do find myself really surprised at their hatred of dear RR :( A fool, yes, but he was a well meaning one who did a lot of good. I suspect a lot of it is based mainly on two factors. Firstly, there is perhaps the blaming him for what has happened to their partner. And secondly, what I typically tend to blame in these situations, is the whole media hooha over him being eeeevvvviiilll ¬.¬

~Mish
From:(Anonymous)
Date:21st December, 2007 06:51 am (UTC)
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I'd certainly hope that some form of partner-support is available for trans partners of trans people! I am one of those, and it's weird, let me tell you!

Try T-Vox (http://www.t-vox.org/); more especially, try its forum (which you need to follow instructions to see, because of their Safe Space policy). It's run by a trans couple, so it should be right up your street.
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From:auntysarah
Date:21st December, 2007 12:02 pm (UTC)
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...although the partner area of the forums is, I believe, a bid dead. Anyone wanting to kickstart it?
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From:zoefruitcake
Date:20th December, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
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I've been to MK about 5 times now and never found the cows! Well done. On the other hand I do know where there is free parking
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From:auntysarah
Date:21st December, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
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Free parking would have been cool.

The cows have their own page on Wikipedia, which explains where they may normally be found.
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From:cyberspice
Date:20th December, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC)
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Milton Keynes Mall is horrendous in summer as it doesn't seem to have any cooling. Plus when I went their last I broke a heel and ended up going tits up in a bad way and smacking my head rather painfully. As for what was there, I don't really remember!

I love that you were showed off and I really don't blame her. I am surprised by the hatred of Russell Reid but again it may be because he 'stole' their partners. Were they older couples. I was shocked and surprised that the average age for transitioning is still in the fifties!
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From:auntysarah
Date:21st December, 2007 12:07 pm (UTC)
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I love that you were showed off and I really don't blame her

Awww, shucks *blush*

I am surprised by the hatred of Russell Reid but again it may be because he 'stole' their partners

I suspect that may have something to do with it, and I think Julie provides a useful insight too. In reality, of course, people like Russell just help us do what we would have done anyway, in such a way as to try and ensure we're not gibbering wrecks at the end of it.
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From:julieisfree
Date:21st December, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
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Eventually, Syvia called and asked if I'd mind coming in - apparently someone wanted to see what I looked like (and I think she wanted to show me off a bit). It turns out that most of the group's partners were much older transitioners than me, and this seemed to colour the conversation lots, and I got the impression that Sylvia felt a little isolated. From what she said, their experience of their partners' transitions wasn't a lot like our shared experience, and the other partners seemed to find a rallying point in a shared hatred of Russell Reid.

I have to say that Sylvia has taken a very different view of transition than a lot of spouses. Granted, she was aware of your struggles before you married, so that most likely colored her perspective. For a lot of spouses, transition seems to be viewed as a indulgent, and selfish act that is encouraged by Russell Reid. Esther tended to take that view, which led her to have very hard feelings toward Meral Crane. I guess somehow, these people think Meral and Russell are talking perfectly cisgendered, though slightly confused husbands into mincing their genitals, growing boobs, and wearing skirts in public.
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From:auntysarah
Date:21st December, 2007 12:12 pm (UTC)
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For a lot of spouses, transition seems to be viewed as a indulgent, and selfish act that is encouraged by Russell Reid. Esther tended to take that view, which led her to have very hard feelings toward Meral Crane

*sigh* I guess you're right, and to be fair, I suppose it can be seen as self-indulgent and selfish from the outside, but so many people don't seem to understand we have no choice. It's what we need to do to stay alive :-(

I'm eternally grateful to Sylvia for all her support and putting up with me as I went through my "second puberty". I must have been very trying at times.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:21st December, 2007 07:36 am (UTC)
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You work with computers, you went to a costa, and you had TEA? o_O There are some stereotypes that shouldn't be broken! Coffee so strong that it kills people if they drink yours by mistake, that's the ticket ;-)

In a previous life (I like that, thanks) I covered the Vision Express lab for a month in M.K. All the roads seemed the same so I can see why it's seen as concretey and grey. Were the cows 'art'? they look quite well done, and I love the zoo style sign.
Maidstone had (probably still has) a £20000 totem pole concreted into the town center, and also a 15 foot tall flowering sheep, that drunks used to climb up at night. My favourite though, that I've not seen yet, is Liverpool's Lamb-banana. I want one of my own!

I just my hands on the N95, and it's a fantastic phone/puter thing. The fact it connects to my wireless network was the killer app for me, and skype (fring) went straight on. Very impressed with Nokias lately, they've really upped their game.
Of course, since we own a citroen the sat nav doesn't work in the car *sigh* and unlike yours it doesn't come with voice directions free, but it'll be ok for walking I suppose. There's always nav4all and similar I suppose.

How we coped I have no idea, there's a generation growing up now who never had the pleasure of meeting up with someone, arriving a bit late, and wondering if they had been and gone, or were late theirself. The dilemma of whether to stay or go has passed into memory, but I worry I might over-rely on technology. Now I have sat nav, it's only a matter of time before I get lost between the hall and the kitchen without it. (Oh yes! It works in the house but not the car; I just need to mount the wheels, tax and insure the house and I'm away.)
Take care, :-)
Maria.
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From:auntysarah
Date:21st December, 2007 12:15 pm (UTC)
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You work with computers

Well, I used to - seem to be drifting into other avenues of late :-)

you went to a costa, and you had TEA?

Of course! I am, after all, the bringer of tea!

Never really understood the point of coffee. I mean, I appreciate that some orally-delivered drugs taste nasty, but at least with paracetamol it's all over in a couple of seconds.

N95 - I did consider that, but decided that it was way overkill for what I wanted, given that I already had the iPod Touch.
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From:beckyrachel
Date:21st December, 2007 11:18 am (UTC)
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Sarah you HAVE been to MK before not just as a nav exercise, but maybe you didn't realise it.

Do you recall that 'team building' session that was run by Wilf and his 80mph on the motorway note making wife? That was in the old part of MK. Surely you remember this - you and a few others were apoplectic about the whole thing.

BTW I think your new boots are cool.
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From:auntysarah
Date:21st December, 2007 12:01 pm (UTC)
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Do you recall that 'team building' session that was run by Wilf and his 80mph on the motorway note making wife? That was in the old part of MK

Pretty sure I remember that being Stevenage...

But yeah, her... sheesh!

"I realise you're all knuckle dragging illiterate techies who'd be spoon fed any old crap, so I knocked together this Powerpoint presentation while driving along the A14. It doesn't matter that it's crap - my husband has arse licked his way into being mates with some of your upper management and so they'll just pay me anyway, haha!"

And I paraphrase only slightly for effect. She seemed mystified about not going down that well, and I remember a mutual acquaintance of ours getting some very dirty looks from said upper management when he piped up with, "So are you admitting to the criminal offence of driving without due care and attention in front of this audience then?"
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From:1ngi
Date:21st December, 2007 11:59 am (UTC)
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Sorry Sylvia had such a crappy time. You must be so proud that she is so proud of you IYSWIM.

One of my favourite bits in Pratchett/Gaiman's 'Good Omens' is the part where we are told that while the demon Crowley was solely responsible for Manchester and Glasgow (and the M25), and the angel Aziraphale engineered Shropshire and Edinburgh, although having nothing to do with it, in their respective reports to hell and heaven, both claimed Milton Keynes as a success.
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From:auntysarah
Date:21st December, 2007 12:16 pm (UTC)
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Sorry Sylvia had such a crappy time.

I may have given a slightly false impression - I think she enjoyed herself, but wouldn't go again as I understand it. Perhaps she'll be along in a bit to give her own perspective?

I adored Good Omens, and yeah, the MK bit is hilarious :-)
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From:1ngi
Date:21st December, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)
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Ah - sorry, I don't think you gave a false impression, I may have been projecting a little rather there - I was imagining how hard it must be dealing with negative attitudes. Painting the Dr as the bad guy is a bit low on the emotional intelligence front.
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From:the_local_echo
Date:21st December, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
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I wouldn't say I had a crappy time, but it's a private group so I can't really go on about it in Livejournal.
From:radio_brigit
Date:21st December, 2007 12:16 pm (UTC)
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hey sarah

nice to see you and zoe again the other nite ,
and thanks for the post -op feedback ,

could you put me on your kink filter ? ..B Xxx
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From:auntysarah
Date:21st December, 2007 12:47 pm (UTC)
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Heya hon, was lovely to see you too.

Added you to the list.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:1st February, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)
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Oh now those gorgeous Victorian boots. I bought a pair a few weeks ago and was surprised to get them for £29.99 in black. They are so so comfy!

RachaelS from NC
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From:auntysarah
Date:1st February, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)
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30 quid? Nice!
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