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Suddenly, I was surrounded by chaps in DJ’s and ladies in sparkly dresses and fur coats, just like me!
All were admiring my look, so I could freely admire the ladies’ clothing, feel the fur freely, and even return comments on cleavages without judgement.
They admitted to having seen me wandering around in other outfits, but loving the current one, as it is outstanding, and I must be so brave to do my own thing and so on, honestly, the repetition of this kind of conversation is a bit hard to deal with unless I can come up with a bunch of stock responses.
I know the image is glamorous, and striking, in many, many uses of the word, and I am not quite sure that commendations of bravery aren’t a tease in disguise – I can only go by the tone of voice, and love people for being so very nice to me.
Fortunately, the conversations became a lot more varied, and I was particularly interested in the purpose of the event.
It was the 40th anniversary re-union of the crew of HMS Bristol, a city which is on my radar as having a reputedly vibrant gay scene.
I heard many stories of the fun side of life in the Navy and travelling the world, and felt really comfortable and relaxed in the company of these amazing people.
Just as the LGBTQ folk did, they asked about cross dressing, sexuality and stuff, and I got many hugs from the ladies after talking about my wonderful family, and recognition as an effective equal when I described my civilian job, which translates into any field which requires large numbers of computers to work together and process data from many remote sources, while giving secure, multiple point access.
I was one of them, and eventually went to bed content that I am a deserving and supportive member of multiple types of society, and that my appearance does not constrict me to one type only.
It’s still a scary thought, but maybe I can thrive in a non LGBTQ environment. Maybe I really can be myself anywhere, without apprehension.
Talking about myself has never been something I have ever really enjoyed doing, but I am seeing it as a necessary part of interaction, and of helping people relax quickly with what I do and who I am in order to learn more about them and become part of the greater society but on my terms, my rules seamlessly integrating with how life should be, inspiring others to be themselves too and spread the love that has no shame.
Suddenly, there came a shout “Hey, Laura!!, I found some food – thank you!!”.
It was Sam, looking very scruffy with his long hair and general unkempt appearance especially among the tuxedos and glitter.
“Oh, that’s fantastic, Sam – nice one!!”, and he carried on, back up the hill, with a big wave and smile.
“Looks like you’ve pulled” joked one of my new Navy comrades.
“Well, I’m just off to shag the wife”, said another, clutching her tightly.
“We’ll all come!” said the first joker.
“Only if she has first dibs!” Joked the wife, clutching my arm.
“Ooh, yes please!”, I joked, and we air kissed, before each going their separate ways to their rooms.
I retired, only to awaken at 5am.
Kat was on reception, but caught up in some task or other with a man in uniform (all the hotel staff wore uniforms, and looked very smart!), so I didn’t disturb her, although she did look up briefly and smiled as I went out in my short white cotton nightie with black leaf print and lacy neck, my trusty coatigan wrapped round me to fend off the chill.
There was the joker, and another, a dour looking man, who didn’t say much at first, until the joker said “Your missus buggered off, didn’t she?”, and he opened up with a story that made me wonder how he kept going – it’s his story, so I won’t repeat it.
It explained why he looked so miserable, but the stoic way he related it made me admire his strength of character.
Despite my appearance, I was one of the lads, a trusted friend. Someone who could be told stuff with comfort that there would be no judgement or emotional repercussions, and I was grateful for their trust and implied friendship. Fully equal treatment by better men than I.
Back to bed, for a couple of hours kip before breakfast.
And what a fun breakfast!
A lady with a child who I had seen the previous day, and who had asked me where she might find somewhere to eat, just as Sam had much earlier that morning, hailed me and said that she’d been successful, thanks to the directions I’d given her.
We had some fun chitchat as I pulled up breakfast items, and my friends from the night before came in, and others came up to me to comment on the lovely dress, and engage further, and I suddenly felt surrounded by friends, everyone I’d met and all the people I hadn’t met, all united by a dress.
I was back in my favourite powder blue number, and just feeling like one of the crew.
I packed the car after breakfast and went for another walk around Gunwhale Quays, ending up in the Cosy Club, a bar like a swanky Victorian officer’s mess, with lovely soft sofas and armchairs and enormous chandeliers, where I enjoyed a freshly brewed cup of coffee, rather than the mud they serve in hotels.
I call it mud because it tastes like fresh ground…
Afterwards, I went back to the room and did the final checks for anything I might have left behind, rolled back the bedclothes and opened the windows for air and freshness, and reluctantly checked out.
“Was that your last night, Laura?” asked the receptionist.
“Yes, I’m afraid so, my darling!”
“Oh, but we’ll be seeing you again, won’t we, my love?”
“Definitely – it’s been wonderful – thank you so much!”
“Aww – thank you, darling, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you here!”
And with that, suddenly, my stay was over.
Or was it?
My wife had told me not to hurry home, as this was my birthday weekend, and she would prepare a roast tea with birthday cake for me to return to. What a lovely wife!!
So I caught a bus to Southsea, as I had heard it’s nice there.
The weather was fantastic – bright, sunny, and crisp.
Southsea was intriguing and seemed to consist of a shopping street, a pier and a canoe park.
What’s a canoe park?
It’s basically a large artificial lake with trees and a path around the outside.
On the lake were several pedalos in the shape of swans, and one in the shape of a mallard, which is a bit random.
I walked all the way around the perimeter, as it was a lovely space, and smiled at the children feeding the swans, ducks and seagulls.
I then went to visit the pier, which looked very smart and recently renovated – but not massively long.
The eateries were generally not very tempting, but one venue captured my attention, with pictures of drag queens among the show attractions.
A very artistically dressed lady came up to me as I was taking a photo to remind myself to research this place, and bid me enter.
It turned out that she was the manager, and Gaiety is a stunning venue inside, even though the exterior initially looked like a tunnel, it’s more like a tastefully converted ballroom. Most likely that’s exactly what it is!
I felt instantly that I would be right at home at a show here, but it felt odd to stop here for lunch, so I didn’t. I strolled up and down the promenade, then caught the bus back to Portsmouth, where I had coffee and chips at the Spinnaker, with a view over the harbour, watching ferries and container ships coming in and out.
On the way home, I stopped at Winchester services, just because I knew I could, because it was sunny, and because it was a convenient place to remove the makeup before the final stretch home, and back to the drab life.
It seemed such a surreal thing to do – after all, I am Laura Lovett.
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