Caty Ryan attended her first Transformal back in 2017 (and as explained herein, last “TF”) This is her story of the event. It is held every May in the Blue Mountains about 2 hours west of Sydney Australia. Transformal is the Australian version of events such as “Southern Comfort” and “Fantasia Fair” in the USA, or “Sparkle” in the UK.
For many a long year, especially since Caty acquired her “Scarlett O Caty” replica Civil War ballgown, she has dreamt of making it to a Transformal and indulging in all the wonderful activities that have become so well know at this event. Number one priority, was to be photographed wearing this on the Carrington Hotel stairs, leading up to the first floor.
There was also the fervent desire to “make up” for the time some 20 years ago when Caty was able to (briefly) attend Fantasia Fair, one of the USA’s premier Trans events. It was in Provincetown out on Cape Cod about 3 hours out of Boston. After being made up to look fabulous by Jim Bridges, one the US’s most famous trans make up artists, I only lasted the few first hours when what I thought at the time was a very serious health problem, came up on me and I fled that event back to my hotel in Boston like a scalded cat.
Booking the flights, Carrington Hotel room, and a rental car was the easy part, having “the chat” about my crossdressing and desire to attend TF with my beloved was much harder. For although she knows about Caty, she also very firmly does not “want” to know. So from her viewpoint it was “just go, but I don’t want anything to do with it”. She carried that through to not answering any text msgs at all during my stay in Katoomba, which by itself was very disconcerting!
I’ve had a chronic and at times, very painful lower back ailment and of course it had to flare a long time before TF and gave me untold grief during the event. More on that later. Thursday, 18 May, dawned and here follows the first piece of advice to any TF newbie traveling from a long way away, especially if you are in your “mature years” like me and travel to your airport is a two hour cross city drive, like mine is. Get to Katoomba a day before TF starts. If I had tried to get there on the Friday in time for the start of all the fun, it just would not have happened.
I had a shocking run to Melbourne airport and barely made my flight to Sydney. Once in Sydney and into my rental car, even though I’d printed off all my directions before I left, I got hopelessly lost on the Sydney freeway (sic) system and it took well over three hours to get up to Katoomba. I used to drive in Sydney as part of my job, but the last time was 15 years ago. Net result, I get into the Carrington very tired and with a very sore back!
But I’d set up an appointment with a local Katoomba chiropractor for the Friday morning and by midday Friday Caty’s all fixed for what she hoped was going to be a very rewarding and fun TF. Of course the first thing anyone would ask is “what brings you to Katoomba”, so in emails beforehand, I discreetly let it be known why I was there. So as well as asking me if I had the right frock for the Formal, the parting shot from the chiro was, “just be careful in those high heels, wont you”. At that stage little did I know the future implications of that remark!
Come cocktail party time and Caty’s done her best with make up and hair and thinks she looks quite good in one of her 3 piece, “Mother of the Bride” outfits. Met and chatted with lots of new TGR friends at the cocktail party and when it was time to leave, I made my way to the “(in)famous” Carrington staircase up to my first floor room.
Half way up the stairs, my right heel slips off one of the stairs and “bang” the back pain comes back with a vengeance. From past bitter travel experience, I do carry some heavy duty painkillers for such occurrences, but of course next day, I’m not much use to anyone! Especially when the painkillers wear off the next day. Thus, instead of joining in all the interesting Saturday day events, including volunteering for a bra fitting, the wonderful Carrington reception staff found me a chiropractor who was open on Saturday. So, she who does not own a smart phone to find one herself, is into the car for yet another one hour drive!
Of course by this stage, I’ve got the false nails firmly glued on and I’m wearing my blue “two day” wristband. I’d also left what I thought were some “unisex undies” on. But when the chiro pulled down my jeans at the back to adjust me, his exact words were “Oh Boy the undies”. Hey, at least I’d taken my breast forms off. Plan “A” was to have them attached all weekend!!
But after he’d finished and I got myself back to the Carrington all was well. I showered and put fresh lingerie on, well in time for the wonderful make up genius that is Michelle Rieusset to turn me into “Scarlett”. Sadly, she ran a touch late and I did miss out on some of the “pre Formal” activities. But made up and dressed in my Scarlett O’Caty gown with the “obligatory” curly red hair wig, and with breast forms adhered again, I felt wonderful, especially the way my full skirts and underskirt rustled as I made my way from my room to the ballroom. And yes, down those pesky stairs I (very carefully) went!
I was also very grateful for my “sore back Plan B” (aka a pair of flat shoes).
I very much enjoyed everything to do with the Formal and surprised myself by staying up for about two hours past my normal bedtime!!
And I got all the photos I wanted too! Thanks Marian and Michelle!
I’ve praised the Carrington reception staff above, but one of the housekeepers called me “Sir” and I think a barman called me, “mate”. Couple this with on Friday afternoon, “Bill” says to his wife “Mary”, “they are having Formal Ball tomorrow night” and maybe I and quite a few others staying in the hotel didn’t look as convincing as we thought.
But in that environment, who cares??
Come Sunday morning and it was time to get back into male mode and depart. All things femme went back into the suitcase and it was into the rental car for the “right way” to drive back to Sydney for a two night stay at Darling Harbour. Might be the “right way” in terms of time and distance travelled, but unlike here in Victoria, I found out the hard way there are no big “off freeway” service station between Katoomba and Sydney on the M7/M5. Net result is I clean forgot to refuel the car and the car rental mob got me for $120.00 fuel charge.
To this we can add the airline hitting me for another pile of $$, as I wanted to change my flight to get home earlier, for another back treatment.
So in summary, my back is never going to be any better and of course if I tried it all again, to quote the great English “bard” Arfur Daley, “Er indoors will go spare” (US trans: will be very, very annoyed). So that’s why, sadly, I’m never coming “back” to Transformal!
Happy dressing everyone.
PS I “did” Transformal just in time. For reasons best known to the organizers, 2018 was the last one.