Monday, 20 July 2009

Sparkle 09 … Thank you

Sunday 12th July … the alarm rings.

Shower, shave but no makeup.

Soon be time to head back home.

We have breakfast at the hotel.

David, I think the restaurant manager, asks us what we’ve been up to over the weekend.

He tells us about the Gay pride weekend in August and that last year Premier Inn was the first hotel in Manchester that organised a float for this.

We meet up with my daughter for a drink before driving back south.

I have a cup of tea at Tina’s place and meet Tina’s wife and the drive home to say hello to Sally.

Like many things in life, I think my memories of a place or an event are deeply affected by them people there.

And this is so of Sparkle 2009.

It was special because of people like my daughter. Tina. Jae. Paula. Cindy. The girls that said hello as we wandered along Canal Street. The girls at the New Union Hotel. Sam Tennant, the policeman from GMP and the community support officer that we met.

And all of this because of the efforts of the people that organised Sparkle (

Thank you all.

Sparkle 09 … The Dogs Bollocks

After the self defence meeting we meander back to the hotel.

A change of makeup and clothing.

Back to the park to see the awards … best outfit … style, deportment and personality … most convincing … miss congeniality … tranny of the year. Here are some of them:



Tina also has a chat with the guys that drove the Pink Punters bus from Milton Keynes to Manchester … at a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour. Very patient kinda guys I think.

Tina seems to know a lot about buses. Almost as much as I do about Star Trek and Babylon 5.

Smiling, we wander back towards canal street and spot Paula and a friend sitting  at a table outside one of the many bars. We stand and chat a while. Paula’s feet are sore … to be more precise … one foot is sore.

We then head along Canal Street in search of something to eat. In the General direction of Velvet where Billie and I had a really nice meal last year.

Glancing briefly at the menu we head inside. Down the steps.

“Mind the fish.”

Part way down the steps is a fish tank. You walk over the top of it. I guess the glass is pretty tough.

The place is busy, but there will be a table in 10 minutes or so.

Back upstairs to the bar. The alternative Miss Manchester is at Velvet tonight.

I wave to Cindy as we sit down with our drinks,

The man from the restaurant downstairs comes and collects us.

Walking to the table I almost trip over the step in the floor.

Walking a little further … looking down very carefully for steps … I bump my head on the shiny globe dangling from the ceiling. But quite gently. I smile at the irony.

The food is great.

The decor is different. There aren’t too many restaurants that I’ve been to that provide an ambience quite like this:


We enjoy the meal.

I don’t thing Tina has spotted the man in the background.


Top left … the globe that banged my head.


To the left and up a ways from where I am sitting … the right as in the picture … there are windows at about street level.

Tina notices people walking past with umbrellas raised.

The weather forecast had said it would happen … and now it is happening.

Being occasionally sensible girls we are prepared.

We head for street level thinking … everywhere will be full … and noisy … and without seats.

Two thoughts come to mind … Eden … and the pub at the end of Canal Street that we visited last year.

Eden … the barge outside has seats. But Tina notices that people there have umbrellas raised.

So we walk on towards the pub … The New Union Hotel.

We go in and …. there are seats … and it is noisy … but not deafeningly noisy.

I order a Carling (lager), Tina a lemonade.

We share a table with a guy that is already there, sit and talk and watch the world.

He’s drinking mild and black … Mild is an English beer … black is blackcurrant juice.

The Mild brings back memories of my youth. I always drank Bitter though.

Just to our right there is a machine with a punch ball hanging down from it.

A couple of guys with their girls drop their money into the slot and hit it … hard.

Sore knuckles with the occasional smile or grimace.

A group of eight or so girls sit at a group of tables to our left. Mostly with pints of lager. Their drinks, like ours, are in plastic “glasses” … maybe they should be called plastics rather than glasses?

After a few minutes another girl arrives … standing at the far end of the group of tables throws a handbag across the room. It lands on top of the plastic pint. The girl at the end of the table is showered in beer.

“Victoria … you f…. idiot!”

Tina and I sit there smiling. I can’t help but think that if it had been a group of guys, warfare would have broken out.

As it is, there is just a lot of laughing and swearing.

The girl behind Tina insists on pressing her boobs against another girls face every so often.

“She loves it really.” she winks.

“I’m at Linsey’s 18th birthday bash”. So pronounce a whole stream of t-shirts. The names on the backs are all kinda cute. Sitting here a week or so later trying to remember them isn’t easy. The one that springs to mind is “Sticky Vicky”. Tina and I eventually decided it was because Vicky is quite a tall girl.

They take a few punches at the punch ball. Makes us smile, One of the girls almost performs a somersault … slipping as she winds up to punch the thing.

Linsey arrives eventually but we don’t quite get a chance to say happy birthday.

A guy celebrating his 21st birthday sits beside use together with a few friends. He’s slipped and landed badly on his back and is in quite a bit of pain. Staff at the pub fill in forms and offer what help they can  and we talk with him a while.

A couple of other girls arrive.

One off the girls at the table is chatting with them.

After a few minutes the new girl takes out a stick of lipstick and is carefully applying it to the girl from the tables lips.

I’m looking on in a “watching the world go by” kinda way.

As the lipstick application finishes I can read the lips of the girl from the table.

She’s looking in my general direction and saying to the new girl something like “I think the lady in black over there would like some lipstick.”

And so … the new girl looks over … and then walks over … lipstick in hand.

She looks at me with a “Well … do you?” kind of look.

I nod … so she applies it.

What takes me minutes, takes her seconds.

Maybe if I wore it every day I’d get faster?

She stands back and smile ….

“Wow …. you look the f… dog’s bollocks you do”

The term dog’s bollocks is, in England at any rate, no bad thing.

I quote:

“Excellent - the absolute apex.”

I think she exaggerated … but it was a nice sentiment and I enjoyed the moment.

A little later I need the loo … bathroom.

I head for the ladies and there is a queue. The ladies in the queue don’t seem to mind.

I reach the front and head for a cubicle.

As I close the door I notice that inside the one cubicle there are two toilet pans facing each other.

The other one is vacant.

I smile. I am often reminded how different the girls world is from the guys.

Back at the table, Tina and I try a Guinness. Not bad.

Eventually we head back to the hotel. Pleasantly sleepy. The rain still falling.

Sparkle 09 … Pictures and Policemen

8:30 am and the alarm sounds.





Stockings, bra, panties.


A dress.

Foundation. Powder. Shadow. Liner. Mascara. Rouge. Lipstick. Gloss.



Earrings. Rings.

It’s 10:00 by the time we’re ready for breakfast.

Actually. It’s 10:00 by the time Andrea is ready.

The breakfast is excellent.

Tina decides to wear boots for the morning.

I stick with the low heels.

I like the high ones a lot better. But I remember Sparkle 2008 and the sore feet that accompanied it.

Part way along Portland Street we are reminded of Billie …



At Sackville Park things are beginning to happen.

There’s the volleyball.


And we bump into Cindy … who I met at a Trans Femme party a year ago.

Jae, Tina, Andrea and Cindy:


And the police presence:






And all kinds of girls:





Then back to Canal Street for a little walk:


A couple of girls get up from their seats and ask if they can have a picture taken with us. There’s a whole family group … out relaxing on their dad’s 50th birthday.

This is them … and us:



Really sweet, friendly people. We chat a while.

Then a coffee and we head for the “Self Defence & Staying safe  when out as a Trans Person” session at the Shang Hi Restaurant on Whitworth Street.

In fact, this was mainly Jae’s idea and I wasn’t so interested.

But, I have to admit, it was a really worthwhile hour.

A police trainer from Merseyside police force was leading the discussion, together with an officer from the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) force.

The police in the UK have had a lot of bad press recently.

But not all policemen are the same.

I know ….it’s obvious. But it’s easy to forget.

As the man from Merseyside said … a lot of it is obvious.

Be wary.

Avoid dangerous situations.

Given a choice … ignore people that have nothing better to do then hurl verbal abuse around.

Cross the street.

He says that the best defence most people have is their voice.

Shout enough and most potential attackers will decide to find something else to do.

However … shouting “Fire” really loudly is more likely to attract attention than shouting “Help”.

We learn a sure fire 100% guaranteed way of escaping from a wrist lock. It’s all about toes and nose.

There were many things that were said during the hour that encouraged me a lot. Some of the snippets:

  • A tgirl mentioned that having been verbally abused by people one time, she had mentioned it to a policeman. The response was … “well what do you expect if you dress like that”. The GMP view is that this kind of comment from a police officer is not acceptable. People have no right to verbally abuse transgendered individuals in this way. Police officers that think otherwise need to get better informed.
  • Recently some guys were arrested in Greater Manchester because they verbally abused a guy in a dress. They were astounded that they could be arrested for that and extremely surprised to spend a night in a cell. The Crown Prosecution Service didn’t think the guys had been sufficiently abusive to warrant charges being made against them, but GMP have expressed their own view that this behaviour is totally unacceptable and that charges should be brought against people in these circumstances.
  • Last year GMP only had a couple of incidents of “trans-phobia” reported to them,. However, they know that many more incidents happen and that people just live with it (I remember at sparkle 2008, the piece of banana that was thrown at me … I said nothing to the police). GMP want transgendered people to report any and all incidents of trans-phobia. They view the behaviour as being unacceptable. It is possible to report incidents without having to give personal details . They need to know the scale of the problem and the places where it happens.
  • It isn’t only GMP that take this view … police forces throughout the country have similar policies and aims.

I know, there are people in the world who would say that GMP are too worried about political correctness … that they should be investing more time in solving burglaries than with dealing with weirdo’s. There was a time when I might have thought this.

But, right at this moment, it means a lot to me that the police force are interested in protecting the right of people to be who they feel that they are. And really, that’s all that we want. Just to be ourselves.

I remember sitting at the meeting and being very moved. I felt that these people cared about people and that they wanted to make things change. And that in a situation where a transgendered individual is subject to abuse because of nothing other than their transgendered nature, the police will take the side of the transgendered person. This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about letting people live.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Sparkle 09 … Rembrandt, Chilli, The Place and Eden

A fairly fast change at the hotel. Off with the yellow top and denim skirt and on with a brown dress.

In the hotel reception my phone rings. My daughter is awaiting us just outside.

It’s back to the Rembrandt to meet Jae.

Everyone, including Jae, had been at the upstairs bar at the Rembrandt …  we hadn’t even noticed that there was an upstairs bar.

At the Rembrandt we head upstairs.

Of course, the bar is empty.

But … we manage to find Jae.

The Red Chilli restaurant is a short walk away at the edge of Manchester’s Chinatown.

Lots of Chinese diners … always a good sign for a Chinese restaurant.

Just three TVs … Tina, Jae and Andrea … together with my daughter Sarah who recommended the restaurant to us.

We sit at the bar for a few minutes looking at the menu and then follow the waitress to the table.

The other diners pay us no particular attention.

We order a selection of dishes … chicken, beef, fish and duck. Rice. Vegetables. Tea. Water.

The chopsticks prove to be not too unmanageable.

After an excellent meal we bid Sarah goodbye and head back towards where Sparkle is at.

“The Place” on Ducie Street is a short walk away and where the early evening get together is.

“Can I take a photo?” asks the photographer as we arrive.

And here it is … Jae, Andrea and Tina at “The Place”.

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The original is at:

There are loads of Sparkle pictures at:

Tina spots Paula … friend from Surrey Swans, Candy Girls and Trans Femme.

We sit and chat a while and also spot another couple from Surrey Swans.

It’s really nice to get to know Jae a little. We share memories of the first times that we had a chance to see the feminine side of ourselves. They are emotional kind of memories.

As the evening passes Tina and I head for Eden … a bar just across the bridge over the canal on Canal street.

Sitting outside we realise that we are actually seated on a barge that is moored to the side of the bar.

A trio of girls ask Tina to take a picture for them … and they take one of us and we take one of them.

Andrea and Tina at Eden.


The girls that took the photo:


And then … back to the hotel.

Makeup removal


Sparkle 09 … Please Miss …

Having settled in to the room the next couple of tasks are selecting what to wear and getting made up.

A smaller suitcase would have made selecting the clothes easier.

After a little humming and ahhing its a medium length denim skirt and a pink t-shirt.

Soon to be followed by a yellow dress that is a little on the short side.

Quite a lot on the short side. But it works with the denim skirt.

Then on goes the makeup.

Usual routine.

I opt for the Maybelline 18 hour lip stuff … a little more like paint than lipstick. But it does stay on and looks ok if it’s dabbed with the moisturiser that is provided with it.

Poor Tina. I still don’t break any speed records when it comes to applying makeup.

A look at the map to check where we are in relation to Canal Street and then we are off.

Right out of the hotel along Lower Moseley Street.

Right at Peter Street.

Left at Portland Street. We walk past the Premier Inn that has no power. It looks deserted and dark.

Right at Princess Street.

Left at Canal Street and into “the village.”

If Manchester were New York I suspect that a policeman or woman somewhere would have indicted us for jay walking. So many crossings showing red for pedestrians and yet with the traffic at a standstill as well.

As seems normal, no one seems to notice us much or to mind.

We head for the Rembrandt Hotel on the corner of Canal Street and Sackville Street where the Sparkle Welcome is at.

However, it is 5:45 pm and the Welcome ends at 6:00 pm.

There are purple Sparkle balloons at the door.

In we go.

But the place seems to be bereft of tgirls.

We order a couple of drinks at the bar.

“Are you going outside?”

“Yes …”

The drinks come in plastic containers.

We go outside and look around a while.

No obvious signs of a Welcome.

Later we discover we are actually not looking in quite the right place.

We dawdle along Canal Street, sipping and chatting.

“Please Miss”. I hear a voice.

“Can I go to the toilet?”

A rather sozzled (as a newt as the saying goes … a Google search for the term “as a newt” will give you the general idea of what I mean) young man is standing beside me.

“Of course you may” says Andrea. Somewhat confused.

“You look just like a teacher” says the newt.

Andrea thinks … “a pity I left my cane at home. My skirt must be way too long”.

The young man looks at Tina.

“And so do you.” he says.

We smile and chat a little.

And dawdle a little more quickly as we pass him.

Still, there are much worse things that a person could be mistake for than a schoolteacher.

Tina at the Rembrandt:


Miss Andrea near the Rembrandt. Complete with plastic container.


Walking along the street we meet a very colourfully clad girl at one of the many restaurants.



Wandering along we try phoning my daughter who is a student at Manchester University and Jay, a friend of Tina’s. The plan is to meet for dinner.

So … it’s back to the hotel for a change of clothing and to try to work out where we’ll all meet up.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Sparkle 09 … Polish, Packing and Premier Inns

Friday July 10 2009.

The alarm sounds at 7:30.


Disaster recovery.

How do you remove nail polish from a carpet?

I decide cotton wool buds and nail polish remover is worth a try.

And it works.

How many suitcases do I need?

The fairly large suitcase comes out first. And then a smaller one.

Stockings. Hold ups. Tights. Black. Flesh.

Bras. Suspender. Panties.





Cosmetics. Brushes.







I know. It’s only two days.

Load the car.

Check the maps and the SatNav.

Just before 10:00 I set of to collect Tina … my partner-in-Sparkle for the weekend, aiming to arrive there at 10:30.

10:25 and I’m there.

Being a little early I drive by and aim to turn back in a couple of minutes.

Ring … ring.

I answer the mobile.

A man from the Portland Street Premier Inn.

A power failure means the hotel has closed.#

The good news is that the booking has been transferred to the GMEX Premier Inn … 2 minutes walk from Portland Street.

I’m offered the latitude and longitude of the hotel, but I already have them … or so I think.

Eventually I arrive at Tina’s a little after 10:30.


Then into the car and on the road for Manchester.

The traffic isn’t good, but nor is it terrible.

A couple of stops en-route.

Manchester City Centre … and Tom-Tom says the words … you are arriving at your destination.

We look around.

We have to be more or less in the correct place … Tina knows that GMEX used to be Manchester Central Railway station. And we have just passed Manchester Central Convention Centre. But GMEX Premier Inn is not here.

We drive around the block … just in case.

Still n0 Premier Inn.

Another trip round the block, but pulling in to a lay-by.

In the distance there is a purple sign and Tina spots that it’s the missing GMEX Premier.

The SatNav co-ordinates seem to be a hundred yards or so out of synchronisation with reality.

Lower Mosely Street isn’t far away – but the one way system and signs instructing that there is no right turn make it a little bit of a challenge.

We drop the luggage at the hotel and park the car.

Events at the hotel reception then take an unexpected kind of turn. 

They check my name … and it doesn’t appear anywhere.

Nor my post code.

Nor any reservation number.

A phone call to Portland Street … well several phone calls in fact.

It seems that the Portland Street booking didn’t get transferred to GMEX … but to Trafford.

Which is miles away.

How can a couple of girls in heels survive with that?

If we had been bunnies we would have been very not-happy-at-all bunnies.

And GMEX is, of course, full. A lot of people from Portland Street are here.

It takes a little while, but eventually we manage to get a twin room for the two nights at the same cost.

Jessica, you are a star.

The room turns out to be a triple room and bigger than I expected.

In fact, the hotel is great. The room is fine. The staff really helpful. And the breakfasts excellent.

A little later than planned, but not much.

Sparkle awaits us.

Sparkle 09 … Nipples and nails

A long time ago … well several months at any rate … I booked in at the Manchester Portland Street Premiere Inn in preparation for Sparkle 2009.

For me, last years Sparkle experience had been a little mixed, but I decided to give it another go. My hope was that if I spent a little more time getting to grips with what was due to happen that I’d end up with a better experience.

Towards the end of last week I’d got to the stage of wondering if it was worth the effort. Hectic weeks at work seem to have that kind of effect on me. A weekend of doing nothing somehow seemed very appealing.

However on the evening of Thursday, July 09 09, the preparations begin.

A soak in the bath and a little time with the Bic razor. Maybe one day I’ll try the waxing experience. But today is not that day.

My nipples survive intact.

I remember a few years back on my second trip ever out in the big wide world in a skirt. Listening to Fiona Floyd in conversation with a guy about the merits and otherwise of the t-girl experience. She mentioned that if he’d never felt the swish of clothing against newly shaved legs then he should try it – even if he never got round to trying on a skirt. And there is something very nice about the feeling.

Nail polish. A bright red shade from Rimmel. I recently discovered that it comes with a newly designed brush. And it seems to work. I can actually paint each nail with three strokes.




Sally asks me about the red spots on the carpet.

Either my nipples are not so intact as I thought, or the new nail polish brush got me over excited.

The nipples are fine.

I decide that it’s best to let it dry a little and work out how to clean it up in the morning.