Monday, 2 May 2016

Walking in Plessey Woods Country Park, River Blyth, Northumberland

Continuing my day from the previous post.

I got off the bus in Ashington.  I have yet to find the joys of the place.  But it does have quite a few charity shops and I found a rather nice craft shop too.  Wandering around Ashington isn't unpleasant and I expect I'll be back there for the charity shops again and might discover more appeal there on subsequent visits.

This photo is not of Ashington.  All the photos are from Plessey Woods but I've placed them between paragraphs rather than putting them all at the end.  The story isn't of the happiest thing in my life and the photos add light to something I found hard.  I've been lazy again and not edited them.  The photos are just what was taken on the phone.

Pegwhistle Burn, where it flows into the River Blyth

My zeal for buying things or eating lunch was curtailed though by a phone call I received while I was there.  It was from the consultant psychiatrist at the gender clinic, calling with bad news.  In order to be referred for any form of surgery, a transgender person must receive a diagnosis from not one but two consultants.

River Blyth

I've been pushing for an appointment with a second consultant for quite a while.  Legally, you need to be "full time in your gender role" for a year before you can have surgery, which in practice means that you need to have changed your name through deed poll or a statutory declaration.  I have been "full time" for two years and nine months and have been having appointments at the clinic for two and a half years.  It's rather more than the legal requirement.  I've seen some pass through the system quicker.  A woman who had her first appointment two weeks before mine and who went full time fifteen months after me has already had surgery.  And I am still waiting for a second opinion even though I have jumped through every hoop they asked me to.  Of course I am totally pleased for her.  It's excellent that she's had the surgery that she so much wanted.  But it can be frustrating that I am still waiting.

The phone call was not the news I wanted to hear.  They have decided that, at this time, they won't refer me for that second opinion.  After my next appointment they might consider the possibility again.  So it's a minimum of another four months before they would decide to refer me.  Yes, I'll have passed the three years full time mark before referral and there are quite a few steps after that before surgery would happen.

They're not referring me because I was diagnosed as autistic last year so I have "a lot to deal with" and because I've been having some anxiety issues.  It's all total bullshit of course.  Gender is something that I have pretty much no anxiety about whatsoever and right from the beginning I've felt totally calm about the possibility of major surgery.  It's the kind of news that increases anxiety rather than helping my situation in any way.

Yes, the call put me off shopping or eating.  I wasn't happy.  Another setback in the process.  Part of me was really cross about it.  Of course, that's natural.  More delays.  Part of me really couldn't care less, for reasons related to my thought processes in the recent post on surgery.  More and more, I care less and less.  Penis, vagina, none of the above.  Who really cares?  Apart from all those crazy Republicans in America who seem totally obsessed with other people's genitals.

I returned to the bus stop a little sad, a little pissed off, and a little angry, all mixed in with a sense both of defiance and knowledge that it doesn't actually matter much to me.  I may even end up deciding not to have surgery at all.  It's possible.  But even if that's the case I still want that second opinion.  It's not a complex thing to get and it would mean one less big hurdle should I change my mind and decide that I absolutely need surgery.  Just get it done.  An hour appointment during a day trip to Edinburgh.  Simple.

Heading back to Newcastle, I stopped for a little food in Bedlington where I just managed to restrain myself from following a signpost that pointed to Blyth via the river.  Back on the bus I came to a decision.  "If this is the bus that passes Plessey Woods Country Park, I'll get off and have a little wander before going home.  There's a 50/50 chance."  It wasn't that bus.  But I realised that the two bus routes meet again at the next bus stop and I got off there, at Hartford Bridge, which is by another entrance to the park.

I am so glad I did it.  The Park is set in 100 acres of woodland and meadow and it runs alongside the River Blyth.  It's so pretty and on that day it was very quiet.  From start to finish I passed half a dozen people.  I just loved being able to sit by the river for a while and all I could hear was the water and the birds singing.  No traffic.  No towns.  No electricity humming.  Just birds and water.  That's like a massage for my brain.  It's wonderful.

The park is pretty and I felt very much better for having got off the bus and explored a bit.  I know I'll be back there.  Using public transport I can be at the park about half an hour after I leave home.  And there are six buses an hour that go to Hartford Bridge so it's very, very easy.  I hadn't heard of the park until I saw the sign.  Now I have and this is one piece of knowledge that improves my life.  If I'm feeling down, there is another place I can visit and find some peace 

My wife that morning had said to me as I went out to find at least one thing that would give some joy.  I'd found more than one.  Walking round the park is easy enough.  Nothing is very far - although I have a circular walk planned from Hartford Bridge, through the park and then on to Stannington, which will be quite a bit further.  From bus stop to bus stop, ignoring twiddly little detours, it was about 1 3/4 miles.  If you want details of the route, I've put it here, on this excellent website I've found.  You can map your walks (or runs, cycle rides and so on) and see the distance.  And then you can save your routes for anyone else to see and can look at the routes others have taken.  I'm happy to have discovered it.  Yes, I was happy.  Or possibly deranged if this picture is any guide!

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