Sunday, 30 May 2010

Registration marks - what it's all about

Melissa was puzzled by all the fuss, and in particular couldn't see what might be special about the plate I saw on a Rolls Royce at Bosham the other evening (HY10 AHA) or indeed my own plate (SC10 CUR). It's not a subject for any but those of enquiring mind, or registration junkies, or business people who have the cash and the inclination to buy something distinctive or personal for their car. Here goes.

In the UK registrations marks were introduced by the Motor Car Act 1903. The original system, which, with elaborations and some tinkering, endured until 2001, began with 'A1', issued by London County Council, and 'A2' and 'A3' presumably followed in close succession. Here's a picture I took in 1992 of 'A1' on a car at Seaford in East Sussex:

As the system developed, letters of the alphabet were allocated to various counties and cities around the country on rather a haphazard basis. Further letters and numbers had to be introduced, to cope with the increasing number of vehicles on the roads. The length of registrations grew until they were mostly in the 'ABC 123' format. After the war, the life of the system was extended by reversing the format to '123 ABC'. In each case, the 'BC' part indicated the city or county in which the car had been first registered when new. Some indicators were quite rare. This was great fun for small boys with notebooks who liked to 'collect' seldom-seen registration marks. Such innocent pleasures of the past!

From 1963 a year letter was introduced, so the typical registration became 'ABC 123A', the 'A' signifying '1963' - at first the calendar year 1963, but from 1967 this changed to mean August 1967 to July 1968. Then in 1983 the life of the system was eked out further by reversing the format to 'A123 ABC'.

Now pay attention. Don't go to sleep. Everything was put on a fresh basis in 2001 when registrations adopted the format 'AB51 XYZ', in which the 'A' indicated a region of the country, 'B' indicated which registration office, the '51' dated the registration to a six-month time slot (in this case September 2001 to February 2002), and 'XYZ' was a random set of letters. The new system allowed for a huge number of registrations each year.

Just a quick bit of background. In the UK, every new cars gets a unique registration mark that it keeps until scrapped. The plate isn't renewed or changed annually, as in some countries. The yearly tax is paid quite separately, and you display a paper 'tax disk' in your windscreen to prove it. You can change the registration mark if you buy another and go through a transfer procedure.

Now we're finally getting to the point. The UK system has never allowed you to 'make up' a striking personal registration. I saw 'XCLSVE' in New Zealand:

Well, you can't have that in the UK. Under the old system all you could do was to get a very short letter/number combination, or something that spelled out a word. But it would cost the earth. For instance, 'K1 NGS' fetched £231,000 at an auction in 1993, and '1A' achieved '£200,000 in 2003. Somewhere out there 'OO 7'  may be lurking, and worth a fortune. It's probably on a tractor in some barn, and the owner knows it'll buy a very nice house one day. But plates like 'J3 SUS' ('Jesus') have never been available, and never will be.

The new system has possibilities all of its own. Some lucky Asian gentleman in Manchester would have got MR51 NGH ('Mr Singh') in 2001. In 2004 someone must have got AS54 SSN ('assassin'). And later this year you will be able to buy RO60 COP ('Robocop'). You get the idea. Although it's technically illegal, the letters and numbers could be slightly rearranged on the plate to read 'MR 51NGH', just to make the name clearer. The possibilities for more serious individual and corporate self-advertisement are obvious. It must pay handsomely to slap a fancy £65,000 plate on the CEO's Mercedes. Some really couldn't give a damn to see it, but a lot of people are impressed by this kind of thing.

Although your new car might quite by chance get allocated a distinctive registration, it's unlikely. Fortunately the DVLA (the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the government organ that handles all this stuff) will sell you something slightly less boring for a modest cost from their website. However they have a sharp eye for anything that could be worth a few bob, and price those marks accordingly. They reserve the very best for auction, raising millions for the government. A nice little tax. Various commercial firms get hold of some of these eye-catching registrations, and are happy to sell them to you at a premium.

To my mind, the 'best' registrations don't involve cheating, that is, moving the characters around to eliminate unwanted spaces, or treating numbers as letters, except for 1 and 0, which on the plate are naturally identical to I and O. So my own SC10 CUR (SCIO CUR on the plate) actually spells out two Latin words, meaning 'I know why'. Mind you, that passes most people by. Only grammar-school kids of my generation and older might recognise what the plate is saying. I suppose it might catch the eye of a few dons or classics students in Oxford, but otherwise it falls flat. Never mind. It's distinctive and it cost me only £390. And if I am ever so inclined, I could sell it to the right person for rather more. 'Right' meaning a Latin scholar with money to burn. Not much hope, then.

As for HY10 AHA, I'm guessing this is one of those 'Hi, everyone' type marks, owned by a chap named Algernon Horatio Anybanker. Obviously.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

This will keep you on your toes

Woo hoo, blue toe nails! Varnish by Rimmel, the only people I could find locally who do this particular colour. It's number 198, Azure.

I got the radical idea of blue varnish from a visit to a friend in Winchester two weeks ago. She was sporting a darker blue than this, but I thought, hmmm! I like that! And so after that weekend I hunted around. I'm seeing her again on Monday (nice long trip for Fiona).

Dark colours like this help conceal nail defects. I banged my right big toe months ago, and it's got discoloured and isn't growing properly. Until I can summon up the courage to get it fixed, it'll look nicer covered up like this.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Don't be envious of my new car - there's always something much better to admire!

Actually, I don't believe anyone among my regular readers is really going to feel envious. You all seem much to nice for that. But it's salutary to remember two things: there's no pockets in a shroud (whatever you have, you can't take it with you when you die); and that someone's always got something better than you have (so never allow yourself to feel smug).

Anyway, having parked Fiona at Bosham the other evening, thus:

I walked around the harbour to the Quay, which I could see was being lit up in a picturesque fashion by the setting sun. I thought that I might move Fiona there, although in daytime you're not allowed to park unless you belong to the Sailing Club. But would you believe it, someone had got in before me! This is what was occupying the plum spot:

Tsk. A flaming Rolls Royce. Mind you, what a car. HY10 AHA was clearly a personalised registration, although I think my own SC10 CUR beat it hands down. But the car itself... Probably £300,000 worth of motor there. I'm not quite sure that, had it been mine, I would have left it there and walked away. Two kids on pushbikes passed by as I took photos of the sunset, and shouted 'Let's scrape the side of it! Yeah!' They didn't, though. I hope they didn't think it was my car, and were hoping to dismay me. It would have been like damaging a work of art, putting a fist through a fine painting. What a beautiful thing that car was. The pictures do not do it justice.

You know, if it were roofless and coloured pink, it would be very like the Rolls Royce that Lady Penelope had in Thunderbirds. The one her chauffeur Parker drove for her. They had an odd relationship, didn't they? Which brings to mind a joke about Parker and Lady Penelope that you probably know, so I won't repeat it here, but it makes me giggle all the same. I liked Thunderbirds very much when I was young, and still do. Thunderbirds are go! FAB.

First pix of Fiona

These are just tease shots, to give you an idea what the car looks like inside and out. There'll be more.

First impressions are very, very good. The quality and finish are fantastic. The safety electronics work as advertised, and I especially like the SatNav. Well, I like it all. And Fiona has turned a few heads. Let the car be the star, I say; it diverts attention away from me personally!

The turbo cuts in smoothly, giving punchy but controllable acceleration, and yet in my first 200 miles or so I've achieved 32mpg, not bad for a heavy, feature-laden, 2.4 litre, all wheel drive car. I used to get only 27mpg with the 2.0 litre, petrol-powered, part-time 4x4 Honda. So that's, let me see, an 18% improvement in fuel consumption. I bought 3,330 litres of petrol in the 12 months to 30 April 2010. So if I buy 18% less, that'll be only 2,730 litres, 600 litres less, and a current saving (at £1.19 per litre) of  a bit over £700 a year. Hmmm. That probably covers all my caravanning costs! 

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Fiona makes her debut

And who is Fiona? She's my new Volvo. You see, any personal possession that has some kind of personality, anything that I have a human-machine symbiotic relationship with, gets a name. So my PDA is (like me) called Lucy. My mobile phone is called Joanna. And my car has been named Fiona.

There's more sanity in this than you might suspect. PDA and phone must have a special name, for bluetooth pairing purposes. Yes, I could have called them 'My PDA' and 'My mobile phone', but then what happens if I want to send a photo to someone else's PDA or phone, and they have christened their devices 'My PDA' and 'My mobile phone' also? World chaos, of course. So if you are obliged to give them proper names, they might as well have nice ones.

As for the car, the registration SC10 CUR is Scottish. 'SC' indicates Glasgow. And 'Fiona' is a female Scottish  name. Doesn't the icy logic of all this simply shine through?

Scoffers will say, why haven't you given your Prada handbag a name, then, or your TAG Heuer watch, or your house, come to that? But that's so silly. I won't deign to reply.

Expect to see posts coming up shortly showing the new car from various angles, with myself draped over it perhaps. It's sex on wheels, I kid you not.

Dad died one year ago

Dad died one year ago, almost to the hour. I so miss him.

Here he is on the cruise we had together in April 2009. He looks pretty cheerful. But his arthritis was painful, and after each meal it was rather a trial to get onto his feet again. Poor old Dad.

I wish I could have fussed over him a bit more. Lucy existed but had to be in male disguise on that cruise. The daughter in me would have straightened that tie. But it had to be the son, who could only be near, in case Dad fell.

Tonight I drove down to Bosham, near Chichester, at the far end of West Sussex. I bought two drinks: for myself, a gin and tonic; for Dad, a pint of ale. The ale wouldn't get drunk of course, but it marked the spot were he would have sat if still alive. I murmered 'Cheers, Dad', and chinked the glasses together. And I explained what this little gesture was all about to a delightful couple on the next table, who lived locally. The lady, Miranda, had also coped with a similar loss and knew what I felt.  I chatted to them both until it became dark.

The tide came in, right up to the sea wall at the back of the pub. I had to move my car twice, to avoid the sea drowning it. When it was time to go home, I poured Dad's pint of beer straight into the lapping sea water, just missing a pair of ducks.

Five to one in the morning. One year ago, two policemen were about to knock on my door to tell me the bad news.

Sunday, 23 May 2010


For those who do not know, Guernsey is a small island off the coast of France, one of the 'Channel Islands', along with Jersey, Alderney, Sark and several other little islands. They hold alliegence to the Crown, but govern themselves. All are fiercely individual.

The Channel Islands were, incidentally, the only part of Britain that was invaded and held by the Germans in the Second World War. I have several books on this. Hitler had plans to turn them into holiday havens for his officers if he had won the war. The islanders endured several years of Wehrmacht occupation, a very odd situation. The Germans tried very hard to be civilised about it all, but in the end, as the war drew its close, the Wehrmacht was ordered to hold the Channel Islands as one of Hitler's no-capitulation fortress territories. Things turned a little ruthless. The garrison was huge, food ran out, and the Germans and islanders both nearly starved to death before a surrender to British forces was made in 1945. Then I understand the disarmed officers and soldiers were astonished to see some strictly forbidden private cars (that had been hidden for the duration in barns and haystacks) come out of hiding and paraded in front of them, as if to say, 'we fooled you, and never obeyed you, despite the death threats'.

It seems that a lot of the occupying forces fell in love with the islands. They are very special. I have seen Jersey twice, but never Guernsey. But now I've booked a week in late June at a hotel there, on the quay in St Peter Port. I'm going to have much of my visit sorted out for me by friends on the island, including a day trip to Sark. I'm really looking forward to all this.

Selling my old home - we have lift off

The agents have been seen and a choice made as to who will be engaged. Despite the excellent marketing promised, I have no idea what interest the property will generate. Or whether it will really sell. But I'm hopeful. We are enjoying hot, sunny weather at last. The exterior of my old house is getting a bit of a repaint, and the garden is looking colourful with flowers. A lot of people will descend on the village in two weekends time, to view the Open Gardens there, and they will see the 'For Sale' board. That will usefully supplement the regular exposure at the agents' premises, on the web, and in the local papers.

I won't be saying much more about what happens, and nothing about the financial side, for reasons that I can't really go into in a public blog. Sorry to sound mysterious, but someone else has an interest in the property, and diclosure could affect them.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Selling my old home

Well, I've set the ball rolling on selling the house I used to live in until June last year. That was when I moved into Mum and Dad's house, which, after their deaths, became mine. The old house is half an hour away, in another village. It's larger and newer than Mum and Dad's, has a great view of the South Downs, is nearer the sea, but it costs more to run and is really completely redundant now. I certainly can't afford to run two houses! I could in theory let the old one, but there are important reasons why I haven't done that. And why I won't. And why, whatever the capital loss to me, I intend to get rid of it and not wait for the housing market to recover enough to get back all I spent on buying it in 2007. That might take years yet.

I've calculated that I will be immediately £600 a month better off once my old home is sold, my outgoings going down that much, which is £7,200 a year, or the equivalent of enhancing my pension by £9,000 before tax. I can save some of that, and slowly rebuild my capital. Considering my current expenses, 'slowly' is the right word! But a plan can be made, and I am pretty single-minded when I really need to be.

Enough money talk. That wasn't the point of this post. 'Setting the ball rolling' involved three phone conversations to estate agents that tested my female voice to the limit.

I've mentioned before how well I seemed to be coming along with my voice therapy. But it has needed constant practice, including chattering away to myself or my teddy bear at home all through the day. That sounds a bit deranged, I know, but it's very effective, as you can try out many different intonations, and get the pitch level, rise and fall, and rhythm of your speech just right. But I recommend it only for those who live in detached, soundproof homes! You can't get away with it in a block of flats or in any situation where your voice may carry. 

But three weeks touring Scotland with no such practice, and minimum interaction with the public at large, did my voice no favours. Frankly it slipped back. The pitch dropped, and it became rough and imprecise. I was actually very concerned and downhearted about this. Fortunately my voice recovered a bit once home, but I don't think it has even now got back to where I used to have it. So it was something of a potential ordeal to phone the three agents' offices today and embark on a discussion with each of them!

I'm relieved to say that it went well. It must have helped to introduce myself at the outset as 'Lucy Melford' or 'Miss Lucy Melford'. And I miraculously avoided any fatal drop in pitch, throatal buzzes, or laryngial croaks. None of the people I spoke to (one woman, three men) gave any hint that they had a pathetic old tranny on the line. They were uniformly polite and interested.

So that's three meetings at the Cottage (my old home) set up. I'll go with the firm that has the best marketing strategy and with whom I have the best rapport. Which begs the question, what to wear for these occasions. Not the pink mini and fishnets, obviously! (I haven't got such items, I assure you)  Oh well, nice top and jeans, clean hair, flats, maybe a scarf. Pleasant smile. And my finest vocal efforts! Let's face it, they'll be trying hard to get the business, whatever they think.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Car fever

Oh dear, caught on camera watching Top Gear while I scoff my evening salad. How very, very Ungirly. But can you blame me? I'm waiting by the hour for news of my new Volvo. I've got car fever. I expect to have a delivery date this week. It was tentatively this coming Friday, the 14th May. Now it'll almost certainly be next week sometime. So near, so near. But still Not Yet.

Actually, Top Gear isn't entirely ungirly, despite the petrolhead attitudes of Clarkson, May and Hammond. They had likeable and vivacious actress Sienna Miller as the Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car thrashing round their test circuit. I particularly admired her nose, which is of a shape that I'd quite like for myself. Oh, and she did drive well. I can't speak for her acting capabilitites.

More new shoes!

Well, I've been spending again. Top and middle, new season's shoes by Clarks. I especially like the red pumps with the laces. Too good to ruin. I'll keep these for mostly indoor wear.

Bottom are walking boots from Millets, by Regatta. Got those half price, marked down from £59.99 to £29.99. Oh so comfortable. I tried them out with a careful four-miler on the Seven Sisters near Eastbourne yesterday, with complete success. A very good fit, great protection for the feet, light and supportive, with plenty of rubber grip on the bit that touches the ground. Walking over the chalk pebbles and boulders at Birling Gap was suddenly a lot nicer and safer, ditto the steep and sometimes slippery grassy slopes each side of a 'sister'. I haven't done any even half-serious walking for a long while, and it'll now be part of my lose-the-tummy-and-tone-up programme for the summer. That's why, anticipating dry weather, boots with swede and breathable fabric uppers will do nicely. These are proper ladies' boots, by the way. It says so on the box, apart from the dainty laces. Size 8. I'm well pleased.

Harley Street

(Photos removed at the request of the owners of 107 Harley Street)

A few days ago it was time for another session (my tenth, no less) with Christella Antoni in connection with the ongoing fine-tuning of my female voice, urgently needed as it regressed somewhat while away in Scotland. This time we met at rooms she uses in London's Harley Street, where the most posh of the private medical consultants hang out. I was intrigued to see just how posh, but I wasn't prepared for this splendour. So often a big front door and and classic facade has just tatty mediocrity within. Or solicitors' office untidiness, you know, file cabinets and files strewn everywhere. But not here. The pictures above hint at the space and opulence, and that was just the ground-floor waiting room! Beats the second-floor corridor at Charing Cross Hospital, or Reception at the nearby gender clinic, our usual venues! Into this hushed, palace-like room came Christella and we made a regal progress upstairs past the old masters on the walls to the her office. We were dwarfed by this other room, and Christella herself was almost lost behind the desk on which sat high-tech computer equipment, all black and minimalist, as if Bang & Olufsen did PCs and mice. Maybe they do!

So verily I say unto you, if you get a chance to see the rooms at Harley Street, do take it. Besides, it's much handier for John Lewis in Oxford Street, and any city-centre meetups you might be contemplating.

The session went very well, and I soon got my voice up and running again.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Back to the old routine

Too much travel makes you barbaric and frayed around the edges. And so, to rehabilitate me, I was treated to a pizza a couple of nights ago. With the dust washed off, and the hair roughly combed, I rose to the occasion. I managed a brave smile. Somehow I drank my wine.

It was usually too chilly in Scotland  to wear a top like that.

Automatic garden

Did I mention that I have a man in to mow my lawns every two weeks? Well, he did his job while I was away, and it was very nice to come back to the above scene at the back of my house. Mind you, the shrubs and flowers are down to me, and they need attention badly! But now that's it's a bit warmer and sunnier, I expect I'll get round to it, as a way of getting a light tan. It's a very private garden really. Perfect for post-op cocktails, in fact.

Playing with diagrams: the Melford Square

While travelling around Scotland, I pondered from time to time, as you do, the relationship between one’s personal position on gender (how male or female you feel) and one’s sex drive or libido. Not that I’m personally too bothered about deep matters like this, but some other people seem to be. In particular it appears to be a perennial question, how is it that if you formerly managed to ‘perform’ adequately in bed, and even had obvious moments of enjoyment, that you now say you had problems about it all? That’s a poser to answer well. And yet you do want people to see how it is without resorting to scientific talk that probably won’t convince.

As a general background observation, the general public (not just tabloid readers) seem to believe that anyone wanting to transition has Much Better Sex at the back of their minds; that post-op trannies want to flaunt their new equipment; that they will be uncontrollably promiscuous and Undermine Family Values, if not all society; and anyway they have always been obsessed by sex, of course they have.  I think most trans people would question that picture pretty strongly. Nobody who proceeds to surgery should be doing it just to pep up their sex life. You do it because you must. For your life.

So I played about with diagrams, because I am a ‘visual’ person, rather than someone good with words or mental abstractions. I take things in much better if they can be reduced to a drawing. I misunderstand words, and I’m a poor verbal communicator. I am hopeless with theories and formulae. That’s why I like photos and paintings and sculpture, rather than long talks, debates, readings or recitals. I used to fall asleep on training courses. I was notorious for it. In my teens there was one occasion when my mathematical exam results for the term were 4% for algebra, 12% for arithmetic, but 94% for geometry. QED.

Anyway, I came up with a diagram, reproduced above. Let’s call it the Melford Square. Why not! It’s very simple.  As you can see, the left and right sides represent gender: female on the left and male on the right. The top and bottom sides represent libido: high libido at the top and low libido at the bottom. By the way, I tend to associate libido with self-esteem, assertiveness, even aggressiveness.

I have plotted two of my own gender-libido positions. Position A represents where I think people thought I was before I began my transition. Position B is where I think I am just now. The main thing about this is how far apart these positions are. It’s not surprising that nearly everyone I once knew has been jolted by the difference, and that they just haven’t been able to accept it. In the future I expect to stay close to the female end of the Square, but eventually float upwards a bit on libido. That will still be a long way from where people remember me. They’ll never come round.

Where did the Old Me think he was? Was that close to where the New Me is now? I wish I could answer that accurately. The Old Me never went in for rigorous self-analysis, and, having perfected the art of popping uncomfortable feelings into little internal boxes as early as pre-school, was never forced to be frank about who or what he was. That might seem negligent or dishonest or self-deceiving, but there it was. Besides, if you are well occupied with a career, it’s easy to escape self-confrontation. But if I must make a guess now, I would say that the Old Me ‘knew’ deep down in his subconscious that he was in the same lower-left quarter as the New Me, not so low down, but certainly not in the place that a hard-nosed, highly motivated, senior tax investigator ought to be, nor where a thrusting masculine lover ought to be either. Ah well. No wonder I felt unhappy and lacked confidence, whatever my public successes.

It occurs to me that you could combine the male-female part of the Square with a range of different things, such as having a powerful sense of humour, or indeed combine three variables and make the diagram three-dimensional. It then becomes (see if you can guess) the Melford Cube! And it seems to me that given three important characteristics like sexiness, capacity to have a good laugh, and where one feels on the male-female spectrum, you could use the Square or the Cube to see whether two people might be a good match for each other. They would be, wouldn’t they, if their current positions on fundamental matters were the same?

Which makes me think that if you plotted the current positions of a natal woman and a trans woman, and they were the same, it might imply that, in respect of the variables considered, they should see eye to eye. An argument for equivalence? Or equality?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Back from Scotland: the inquest

So I'm back. How did the caravan tour go?

3,200 miles in three weeks and a day. That statistic alone will tell you that I'm knackered. So is M---: it's only a little less tiring as a passenger. And neither of us are spring chickens. You'd never think that it was possible to drive so far on the mainland of Great Britain. The distance from Brighton to John O'Groats is about 750 miles. There and back, 1,500 miles. So where did the other 1,700 miles come in? Those little daily outings certainly added to the mileage!

We bought 690 litres of petrol, that's 152 gallons, and averaged 21.4 miles per gallon. The fuel cost was £822. Ouch. On the other hand, the caravan site fees came to only £265 for the entire three weeks. Far less than doing it at even £25 per person per night for bed and breakfast at guest houses. I'd hate to think what the three weeks would have cost if staying at full-blown hotels. Meals out were of course extra, but then we'd have spent the same money if touring by other means.

The caravan, with two in it, was short on space, but otherwise warm and comfortable. If you wanted to, you could wash, cook, listen to music, and (if there was any reception) watch TV. And of course come and go as you pleased - no hotel meal schedules or rules to observe.

There were a few chores that yours truly saw to: setting the caravan up on arrival, fetching water while on site, dealing with the toilet and waste water, and doing most of the things required at departure time. M--- stowed everything away inside when we were leaving a site, while I did the outside things. A sort of team-working. It was difficult not to fall into the traditional 'man-woman' roles, but in fairness to M---, she would have done more if I'd let her. I simply liked to attend to as much as possible myself. I admit that winding the corner steadies up and down, and hosing out the toilet cassette, weren't elegant pursuits for somebody calling themselves 'Miss Melford'! Once or twice chivalrous men in adjacent caravans offered help, perhaps when we were both  heaving the caravan around to face a different direction, on arrival after unhitching, or when leaving and ready for hitching up; but we both politely refused. I'm not sure why really, because neither of us had any real muscle. Maybe for different reasons we wanted to be independent of outside assistance. And to be sure, the only time we let 'the men' take a hand (in this case the official club site people), they pushed the caravan onto an pitch we didn't like.

The Honda may have had auto transmission, but it was a touch underpowered and definitely too old for the job of hauling the caravan all the way to the top end of Scotland and back. It couldn't be done without constant nursing and care. The Melford sang-froid was put under considerable strain, fearing at any moment a burst hose, or another overheat, or some other kind of seizure under the bonnet. Many a time I cursed, wailed, wobbled or wept as unexpected problems arose with roads closed or turnings missed. I launched the car out onto the desolate single-tracked roads of the far north privately saying my prayers, and it was sobering to think that had we broken down we'd have waited till Doomsday for a rescue truck to reach us. And although we saw an amazing amount of sunshine, given the time of year and the high latitude, it was also cold, and north of Inverness we experienced several wintry showers. But we did actually see John O'Groats in the sun.

How did the lady about town survive in these conditions? Did she wilt? Yes, a little. It just wasn't possible to deal with the finer points of appearance. I managed a very good daily shave, but didn't have the lighting and mirrors for proper eyebrow maintenance. Although I took along plenty of clothes, the nature of the holiday meant that that it nearly always had to be jeans-and-a-top, with a fleece jacket over. This was unglamorous attire that did not reveal my fat but curvy figure or especially signal 'female' to the world, and by the third week, with eye brows getting thicker and not using lippy very much, I was getting called 'sir' much too often. I kept up the correct girly walk and other movements, but the voice suffered. M--- didn't want to hear it, and there was nobody else to hold a prolonged conversation with. So it gradually became more like a higher-pitched version of my old voice (although I hasten to add that it has since recovered). And the weather played havoc with my hair. After washing it looked great until I stepped out of the caravan, whereupon the wind instantly messed it up. It got lank and greasy very quickly, and that didn't make me look or feel wonderful. Thank goodness we weren't in a tent. At least you can use a proper hair drier in a caravan!

That's enough for a first quick debriefing.