How large a grey suitcase does a person need for a 3-day trip?
The truth is that it depends upon the trip and the person.
If the trip is to Sparkle and the person is Andrea then the answer is larger than you might think.
To be fair to Andrea though, the same is true if the person is Tina. Except the suitcase is more of a red colour with a floral pattern.
The plan to Sparkle was laid back in February.
The time: July 7th to 10th 2017.
The accommodation: The Premier Inn, Portland Street, Manchester.
The event: Sparkle 2017
Thursday July 6th is a day to pack the larger than you might think suitcase.
It begins with makeup.
There’s a dinky pink little suitcase thing. It’s a little like a Time And Relative Dimension in Space machine. It doesn’t do time or relative dimension in space travel. But it almost seems to be dimensionally transcendental. Which is a mouthful of a way of saying that it fits more on the inside than you would think by looking at it from the outside. It’s a shame that its big grey brother is more dimensionally challenged.
The dinky pinky receives Foundation. Max Factor X, 106 Natural beige, 35 ml. Times two. And yes, this is a lot of Foundation for a long weekend. But, thinks Andrea “one of them is half empty … and a bit left over at the end of the weekend is better than not enough at the wrong time of day during the weekend”.
Hindsight being the thing that it is reveals that Max Factor X cartons may also be dimensionally transcendental.
Kryolan Transluscent Powder. Also known as Transparent Puder, Poudre transparente, Polvo transparente, Cipria transparente. 60g. Times 2. That’s a lot. A bit like Max Factor X. It took a long time to type all that. And, having checked the spellings, I now have a keyboard spattered with Cipria transparente. A lot less than 60g. But a little bit of powder … as you might know … goes a long way. One might almost say that it is dimensionally transcendental. But only almost.
StarGazer 31 Eye Dust. 1.8g. AKA hyper pigmented loose eye shadow powder.
Max Factor Earth Spirits 495 Smokey Gold Lidschatten. 4g. Just another name for eye shadow.
Revolution Redemption Palette Iconic 2. 14 g. 12 shades. This stuff is “a perfect mix of pearl, shimmer and matte shades. Totally collectable and a pure sellout”. Must be something to do with all that ethylhexyl palmitate. It’s also, eye shadow. Complete with an eye shadow applicator tool.
That adds up to a lot of eye shadow for someone with just the regular two eyes.
Body BC Collection classic gold. 12 shades of eye shadow. 3 shades of rouge. It makes it into the pink TARDIS by virtue of one shade of rouge.
Maybelline Master Precise liquid eyeliner. Black/Noir. And also, Noir – Black. 0.4mm point. Which is a Pointe Ultra-Fine in anyone’s language.
Maybelline Pulse Perfection Vibrating Mascara. Yes. Really. It has a battery. 6.5 ml.
Max Factor Lipfinity lip colour, 108, Frivolous. That being the shade.
Maybelline Super Stay 24 Colour, 510, Red passion. 19 ml.
Then comes the additional hardware.
Fingers. Not necessarily the most chic way to apply foundation. But they work and are pretty low cost. These stay attached to hands rather than adding to the payload of the petite pink thing.
Powder puff applicator pad to put the Cipria transparente on.
Powder brush to brush it off again.
An eye shadow brush.
And another one.
Andrea has two eyes and they are different shapes. The bristles on the brushes, that is.
A Ms Makeup rouge brush. Only one.
Lipfinity and Super Stay are self sufficient.
MAC Vernis à Ongles. Nail Lacquer. Cream Shirelle AA4 being the colour. 10 ml being the size.
Rimmel 60 Seconds Super Shine. Nail polish. 340 Berries and Cream. 8 ml.
Nail file. Nail clippers. Tiny scissors. Little tweezers.
Cotton wool buds.
Balls. Of cotton wool that is. More than two.
The rest make it into the pink wash-bag.
Nivea Soft Moisturising Cream. Superdrug Nourishing Nail Polish Remover (Acetone free with Aloe Vera and Vitamin E no less). Cotton wool roll. Simple Cleansing Lotion.
3 shavers (Panasonic, Braun, Phillips). 1 toothbrush (Braun). Toothpaste (Colgate).
Then come the reasons for the grey case needing to be so big.
Three wigs. This could be considered an extravagance for a girl that has only a single head.
Two breasts. Silicone. Fairly modest in size. Exactly the right number.
A lingerie of assorted knickers, bras, suspender belts, stockings and tights.
Three skirts … blue denim, floral cotton, black faux-leather.
Three blouses … pink, black, white.
Three t-shirts … black, pink, pink + white stripes.
Six dresses … short black times two, pink, long with white spots on black, long floral, long patterned.
Three pairs of shoes.
Two pairs of sandals.
Four necklaces. Two rings. One watch. Three bracelets. Four pairs of earrings.
No room for the partridge.
Or the pear tree.
Experience has shown that haste and nail polish do not make good partners. And that loading a car boot with recently painted finger nails is certain to lead to tears.
So, Thursday evening sees Berries and Cream being leisurely applied to toe nails. Cream Shirelle to finger nails. A trickier process than initially envisaged. The Berries and Cream brush has somehow been sadly deformed, making it surprisingly easy to paint toes as well as nails. Cream Shirelle is runny, but thankfully there is no rush. Andrea is glad to be a girl with time on her hands. Not to mention Cream Shirelle on her fingers.
07:30 Friday July 7th, 2017. Body shaving and ablutions. Dress. Breakfast. Extremely large grey suitcase gets loaded, thankful that polish is hardened.
09:45 Tina arrives. Floral suitcase having proportions just as generous as Andrea’s grey beast, but looking prettier.
Hitting the road soon after, Andrea and Tina are DRAB alter-egos.
Slow down it flashes. Incident.
All clear it says with signs of no incident at all.
This is par for the M40.
The newly smart M6 – it could not possibly be dumber than the M40
Hard shoulders turned soft.
60, 50, 40, 60, 50 …
WC and Coffee
Susan phones to say she has arrived.
Sat Nav selected detour involving the A500
M6, the dumb version, complete with roadworks to make it smart
60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 0 all without the aid of added intelligence.
The journey to smartness has its inconveniences
0, 10, 20, 40, 60, 70
A re-envisioned A556
Calculating … Calculating … Calculating … Calculating whispers the Satellite Navigation system patiently
Great Bridgewater Street
191 miles and it’s about 14:40.
Tina rolls things to reception.
Andrea cruises to St James Street and Q-Park and makes a careful mental note of where the car is.
Reception is a busy place. A bunch of people are checking in personally.
Andrea and Tina go for the faceless option. Touchscreen, credit card and PIN number. Done in a jiffy. Or maybe two. Room 328. Susan is 302.
15:00 “Susan we’re here. See you in about an hour”.
This is an ambitious target indeed.
Fiddle with the air conditioning.
The room is fine, but hasn’t been designed to cope with the contents of elephantine suitcases.
Three hangers for Tina and three for Andrea.
Three into 3 skirts + 6 dresses + 3 blouses.
Two dresses per hanger, remainder 3 skirts + 3 blouses folded neatly in the suitcase.
Let the undressing, redressing and makeup begin.
A Master Precise eyeliner does, in fact, need a master (or mistress) with precise fingers. And patience. And cotton wool buds help a lot as well.
Susan is waiting at the bar.
The 60-minute target stretches on and on.
It’s a short black faux-leather skirt and white blouse for Andrea.
By about 15:45 Susan, Tina and Andrea are sitting and chatting in the bar.
Hazel pops by and says hello.
The trio adjourn to The Paramount just around the corner. A Sauvignon Blanc. Two halves of Imperial Stout.
Talking is of journeys. To Manchester. Through life.
A trip to the hotel.
A long patterned dress for Andrea.
A walk to Canal Street.
“Can I have a picture with you all? You look fantastic”.
Sackville gardens. Things are in preparation.
Delicatezze which was once Eden. The bar, that is. Not the garden.
It’s a nice place. Sparkle Weekend Guides at the bar.
We sit on the barge and sip drinks. A Sauvignon Blanc and two halves of a rather nice slightly coffee flavoured beer.
Another trip to the hotel.
All buses seem to lead to Didsbury. East or West.
A short black dress for Andrea. High heels and a handbag full of sandals.
An excellent dinner at Red Chilli. Beef. Chicken. Duck. Rice boiled and crispy rice – which is a bit like rice crispies.
A visit to Via.
Via is a nice place. Though a little bit of care is needed when negotiating the winding staircases.
Susan and Tina:
Tina and Andrea:
We talk of cars. Self-discovery. Self-acceptance. Sons. Daughters. Wives. Friends. Religion. Freedom. Persecution. Life. Death. Trans. Non-binary. Gender-fluid. Sauvignon Blanc. Two halves of Fosters.
Andrea’s round. Of drinks that is.
“A glass of Sauvignon Blanc please”
The girl at the bar searches the cabinet.
Then it’s in with the corkscrew.
And yes, it should be out with the cork.
But corks can be stubborn.
Andrea smiles patiently as another girl at the bar repositions the corkscrew.
The cork takes a two-nil lead.
“How would a glass of house wine be?”
“Sauvignon Blanc would be nicer.”
Andrea smiles with gentle amusement as a boy at the bar repositions the corkscrew.
They think it’s all over.
It is now.
Three-nil to the cork.
“They’ll have some at the bar downstairs” says the first girl and kindly offers to go and get some.
Andrea smiles and picks up a diet coke and a Fosters and is happy to trot to the downstairs bar herself.
The trot is actually a careful little trip-trap out of respect to the winding staircase.
“A glass of Sauvignon Blanc please”.
The boy checks out the cabinet, unscrews the top and pours a glass.
A bit of a let-down. But it’s a decisive 1-nil victory to the boy. Not a cork in sight.
The day ends with another visit to The Paramount and the customary Sauvignon Blanc and Imperial Stouts.
Rise and shine at 9:00 on Saturday morning.
At 10:30 Andrea, clad in a knee length denim skirt and pink blouse taps on the door of 302.
At the Paramount it’s 2 traditionals plus one for a child or person with a smaller appetite. Three filters.
A visit to the hotel rooms bumping in to Nikki and Rachel on the way.
A short walk to Sackville Gardens.
Security is more evident than last time we visited. There are barriers across the ends of roads. Bags are searched at the garden entrances.
The sun is shining and everyone is friendly.
Introductions and safety information. A mention of Alan Turing, who sits in the park.
Poetry is read.
Tina and Susan pose.
Places to buy clothing, shoes, hair, snacks, drinks, makeup, makeovers. Trades unions. Police. NHS. Lloyds Bank. Asda.
A trip back along Sackville Street, turning right at Canal Street in search of seats in the shade from the warm early afternoon sun.
All the way to Minshull Street. Lots of seats and tables. All paired up with people.
Andrea pops into Velvet, admiring the fish in the floor.
“Any chance of a table for three for tonight?”
“Sorry … we’re fully booked from 6 o’clock”.
All the way to Princess Street. Seats. Tables. People.
So, it’s back across the little bridge to sit on the barge at Delicatezze. Accompanied by Sav Blanc and her coffee flavoured friends.
And another visit to the park.
A table is booked for 7:00 pm.
At the hotel again Andrea confirms that it is possible to remove bristles and renew foundation without ruining lips and eyes. A trick that is worth 90 minutes.
7:00 pm and carbonarra, calzone and rib-eye. Accompanied by the usuals.
The trip to the Paramount is via Via. At this point my spell checker wants me to “Delete Repeated Word”. But the word survives because it’s what happened.
Andrea’s turn to visit the bar. She recognises the girl.
You perhaps guessed. “A glass of Sauvignon Blanc please.”
The girl behind the bar searches the drinks cabinet and retrieves a bottle.
Together with a corkscrew.
The corkscrew penetrates.
Pull. Push. Pull.
“I had this same trouble last night.”
“Ohhhhhh it was you!!!!!” she smiles.
We settle for a glass of house white with a non-diet lemonade and Fosters.
At the Paramount it’s the usuals.
Sleep followed by Sunday.
A Paramount breakfast.
A Pop bar seat.
“A glass of Sauvignon Blanc please”.
“We only have house white.”
“Then a medium glass of house white please”.
“We only have large and small glasses.”
“Mmm … then a large glass of house white and two cans of Guinness please”
A short wait.
“Two cans of Guinness and a glass of paint stripper … mmm … house white. That’s nine pounds and forty pence please.”
Andrea wiggles a visa card.
“Sorry … there’s a one pound fifty pence charge for that.”
Andrea fiddles with her purse for a while.
Pound coins. Fifty pence pieces. Twenty p’s. Tens. Fives. Ones.
Nine pounds and forty pence it is.
Rachel says hello and goodbye as we sip.
Back at the gardens the stalls are buzzing.
Susan poses with a policeman. Andrea suggests the handcuffs would look cool, but its not to be.
The music is acoustic.
And the judges are looking serious.
Jordan Gray not-so-serious.
The scores are almost in:
And we have a runner up:
And a winner:
Time for Susan to set off home.
A phone call from Sarah, the elder daughter of Andrea.
We meet at the Paramount via Q-Park, just to check on the car, passing the rainbow police.
At Q-Park Andrea discovers that the careful mental note of where the car is, wasn’t quite so careful. A little bit of a search reveals its location.
At the Paramount its beers, lemonade and chatter.
Then it’s a walk in the park.
And Canal Street complete with all the Gordons:
Back to the barge. G&T’. Coffee beers. Chatter.
And now we know the identity of the drinkers of Sav Blanc, coffee beers and G&T.
The gardens again.
The bus stop for Sarah. East and West Didsbury are ever popular destinations.
Doombar, King Prawns and Chicken Caesar at the Paramount.
A hiatus followed by Doombar, Stout and Porter, in no particular order.
Sleep and all of a sudden it’s Monday.
Packing. Paramount. Premiere Reception.
The receptionist checks it out.
“Oh … are you sure you’re leaving today.”
Andrea nods. And Thinks.
“But I’m not sure about 238 … that should be 328.”
Q-Park and the drive home via a short visit to see Sarah and Ollie.
Tina and Andrea are DRAB.
“So … do I still call you Tina?” asks Sarah with a smile.
“Oh … and Paul asked if I call you mum when you are Andrea” she asks.
Andrea and Tina are happy to leave the choice to Sarah.
And then, the journey home.
So … how was Sparkle?
For me, it was great.
Most of the above is just an account of events. But Sparkle is much more than a series of events.
The specialness is about people.
The time spent with Tina, Susan, Sarah, Ollie and others.
The things we talked about. Things that matter to us. Friends. Families.
A place where trans people and any people … all people … can relax and be at peace as well as party.
A place of diversity. Acceptance. Trans, bi, lesbian, gay, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Humanist, non-theist … the list goes on … can be different and can still be together.
For me, the acoustic music was special. The dancing of Zarah. The humour of Jordan Gray. The helpfulness of the police force. The friendliness of people at the Premiere Inn and Weatherspoon's Paramount, the Via and Pop bars, Red Chilli and Delicatezze. The time and effort put into the organising and running of Sparkle by so many people.
The weekend is more than the sum of its parts.