My Regular Excursions

By Carole Jones
In spite my long commitment to my feminine side I had never ventured outside the safety of my home as Carole before 14th January 2014. That night I was finally persuaded by folk I hadt "met" on the internet to join them for an evening of coffee and “face to face” chat. Against my better judgement l decided to go. Since then things have never been the same; suddenly there I was, as a woman, totally out of my comfort zone and absolutely loving the experience.

I now couldn’t imagine life without my regular excursions into the world of "normal" people they are never simple. Let me explain ……..
I often travel into Newcastle for a meal in a one or other of the city centre restaurants usually with one of the friends I had met on that first fateful evening. . Most recently we had arranged a Thursday to visit “Café Rouge” and I was looking forward this as we had been there before and I knew the food was good and the staff attentive and polite.

A couple of days prior to the trip nerves begin to set in and I’m beginning to experience a feeling of total disbelief that I’m actually going to do what we had planned The arrival of these feelings of detachment is marked by the increasing number of butterflies stamping around inside me. As time passes the size and number of them around grows and before long they seem to be the size of elephants, and these damn elephants dance in clogs! I think, “Best just to ignore them and get on with my normal everyday life”. Nevertheless, the whole idea of going to Newcastle as a woman, in a dress, make-up in place, wearing shoes with heels and with a blonde mane seems utterly unreal. I tell myself to, “relax, just relax, and everything will be ok, you’ve done all this before, it’s o.k. and you’ll enjoy it” Still the thought stays alive in my mind….I’m not really doing THAT tomorrow am I?

Well reality bites when all of a sudden tomorrow is today and I’m at home and I have to get ready. Let me digress for a moment here to say that I now fully understand why it takes any woman some length of time to get ready and I don’t get impatient with my partner any more when she takes absolutely hours to prepare for anything. Anyway, tonight, the woman is me and I’ve got two hours to be ready to go as Dee is calling to collect me.

Everything has to be ready, I had bathed earlier in the day and shaved all carefully, and then did it again to make sure all was well. All my clothes have been selected and left to hand; undies, tights, the dress; they’re all there, although not on view, just in case.

I try to remember what I’ve sorted out; Body spray and perfume (Jimmy Choo) ready? Check!; Handbag packed with everything I might need? Carry out a quick check to make sure; umbrella in there? A fleeting thought passes through my mind, why do we need so much in our bags?

Which jacket shall I wear? The calendar might say spring but this is NE England so it might be wet…or windy…or cold, or a combination of all three. On the other hand it might be a mild spring evening. All eventualities have to be catered for and to hand.

Where we are going to is located on the hill leading up from the River Tyne to the city centre and getting there involves a route march up that hill from the car park to the restaurant. Sensible heels are obligatory so sadly not my usual 4 inch tonight. The destination is only a few hundred metres from the city centre and even less from the Theatre Royal and numerous other restaurants and bars so it’s going to be busy everywhere. I know that and the clog dancing elephants respond to the thought by breaking in to a Quick-step.

“Why am I doing this?”, I ask myself for the millionth time, but I know I’m still going to go and do it…..and it both excites and terrifies me!

Ok, now I’m ready; where did those two hours go? I check myself in the mirror, (again!), and as far as I can see everything seems to be in the right place. Now, where is my chauffeur as it’s almost 6.45? There!! I see her coming along the road and start for the front door.

Now this is the REAL scary bit. I am about to step out of my front door, something I might do dozens of times a day without thinking about it but tonight I’m in a skirt! Now I know walking through Newcastle can be tricky but this first step is a magnitude worse. Here the people around know me and who lives in my house….the drab me. Fear grips me as I step outside; I glance around quickly, is there anyone around who might see me? If there is will they recognise me? If there is and they do, what will they do? What will I do? The questions and the fears race around my brain as the butterflies renew their stomping activities. I take a deep breath and step out. Nothing happens and I glide across the road and sink safely, and elegantly, into Dee’s car, I’ve made it!

I say safely but that’s not quite true as I now have to experience being driven on a twelve mile journey on a busy Thursday evening. How Dee hasn’t had a serious accident or been the victim of an acute attack of “road rage” is beyond me. She drives with total disregard for lane discipline, especially at junctions and roundabouts where clearly she feels a straight line is the only way to go. I sink lower into my seat and remember all those prayers I learned in my youth while Dee negotiates the road with frequent commentaries on the inadequacies of other drivers, especially those who mark her passage by using their horn as they pass or as she cuts in front of them.

“Why AM I doing this?”, passes through my head once more.

The gods are with us tonight and we reach Newcastle and head for the carpark we normally use. Unfortunately it’s already full and there’s a queue of cars waiting hopefully outside. I know an alternative place a few blocks away and we head there as I again give myself up again to a journey of silent prayer. Somehow we make it there; still miraculously intact, (perhaps there is something to this prayer business after all), and there are plenty of spaces. Hooray, we don’t need to look for another car park.

Then begins the business of parking, I won’t embarrass the Swedes by mentioning the name of the manufacturer, but this car has the turning circle of a large oil-tanker and it does NOT like the narrow gaps it is necessary to put it through in a multi-storey car park. By the time we get up to the floor we need Dee is in a fine state and will definitely need to powder her nose before we head to the restaurant. We park the car; I say park, but as you can imagine with her total disregard for anything to do with white lines, it’s more like it’s been abandoned! Still we are here and in one piece and there is still sufficient time to get to our table by the appointed time. Best not worry about little things given the overall success of the mission.

This car park is further from our destination than the first choice so that means a longer walk, (good job I wore the lower heels) and that we will pass more people on the way. However, all goes well and we hurry along chatting as no one takes any notice of two more women on their way to a night out. Ten minutes brisk walking sees us at the “Café Rouge” It’s fairly full but no one takes much notice of the arrival of two more diners. Obviously the staff is soon aware of who we are once we open our mouths but they are unfailingly polite and helpful and at last I start to relax, helped, I’m sure, by the arrival of a glass of red wine. The waitress who takes our order is clearly intrigued but restricts herself to complimenting me on my dress and admiring the shade of Dee’s lipstick and asking for the make and shade.

Moving on rapidly, the evening goes well, Dee returns me to me home safely (I’m still surprised at that, days later) and I get indoors without any of the neighbours spotting me…I think.

So why do I do it? Well frankly I have never found anything in life which gives me a greater “buzz” than being Carole in the big wide world. Its all there; the delight of wearing nice clothes, the click of the heels on the pavement, the sheer joy of being able to mix with the “normal” world and to be accepted. Do people “read” me, I guess some do but they don’t recognise me so that’s fine. Do I care that they do? No, not at all because the majority of people who see me don’t.

So yes, the preparation is fraught with nerves and that aura of disbelief that I’m actually going to go out and be me in public after all these years. Would I like to go back to my previous existence of hiding away. NO, I most certainly would not. It is so wonderful to have reached retirement after a full working life and still have wonders and excitements to marvel at and enjoy.

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