• Stephanie Ashton

Something Changed

Pulp, Different Class, 1995

This blog is all about my transformation from girl-about-town to happy home-bound spinster. I appreciate that the events in my life may seem very unimportant to you all at this time, against a background of titanic changes in our everyday lives due to Covid-19. Indeed, it was a struggle for myself to finish this blog. Nonetheless I did persevere as I hoped to provide some light relief from the constant bombardment of Covid-19 updates that seems the sole preoccupation of the media nowadays. For that reason, this blog will also be a picture rich environment and I hope you enjoy them all.

So where did I end my last blog? Oh yes, so five weeks ago I was enjoying a rather lovely weekend in Copenhagen with my dear friend Anna de Winter. We had not met up for some time, but we finally agreed on a weekend to meet up in Copenhagen before I moved home to the United Kingdom (UK). Looking back now, we were both so determined to meet up in February it was almost as if we had received advance warning of what was about the occur, or certainly knowledge that we would not be able to travel to meet up again any time soon.

But the weekend with Anna…what happened? So, on the Saturday I got myself ready and popped along to Copenhagen in the car. I was the first to arrive in the area of our apartment and to my good fortune, discovered we were right next door to the Meny, a chain of high-quality supermarkets in Denmark. So, I decided to flaunt myself around the shop and in the process acquire necessary supplies for the weekend. Now in Denmark the women dress quite conservatively so it was little surprise that that having my long legs on display in high heels received quite a lot of attention from pretty much every man I passed. I know, I know it is a bit naughty but why not!

Leaving the supermarket with bags full of wine and Prosecco, I went and checked into our apartment and had the good fortune to discover we had been given a free upgrade to a very nice two bedroom apartment with a sea view. Upon opening up my suitcase in the apartment I was not disappointed as I unleashed the full tranny bomb complete with way more outfits than I could possibly wear. True to form, I then went about unpacking my cosmetics in the bathroom (porters on standby) when my dear friend Anna arrived. Anna had endured a difficult drive due to poor weather but regardless we were both grateful the bridge between Sweden and Denmark had remained opened so she could make it to Copenhagen. Thankfully our respective journeys were soon forgotten as we got cracked into the bubbles and had a great catch up.

As the evening went on, we finally decided we had better go into town for dinner and so proceeded to the bathroom to get tarted-up. This descended into a lot of fun with make-up and laughs in front of the huge bathroom mirror before eventually leaving the apartment. Arriving in town it was a typical night in Copenhagen with seemingly little happening out on the streets. We quickly parked up and walked around a while before finding a nice place to eat. And so, we had quite a jolly time before returning to the apartment to sing, dance and generally have a good old carry-on. Quality hygge.

When we both surfaced the following morning, we were in good form but feeling very relaxed about life. This possibly explains why our glacial speed at getting ready saw us eventually leave the apartment for morning coffee at 2pm in the afternoon. Driving down into town we had a minor parking fiasco before finding a very nice café where we quickly decided it would be far more sensible at this stage to have lunch. I had purposely driven down into the main shopping area so we could go for a nice Sunday stroll around the department stores and so after a nice lunch, we passed an hour or so in Magasin looking at make-up, shoes, nylons and bags. Does life get any better?

Now it is no understatement to say that Anna and myself have got into some bizarre situations, often as a result of my crazy plans. So, that evening as we sat in the Garden Restaurant enjoying a lovely calm time together it seemed strange that the weekend had been so normal. Well, true to form I still had time to get into a strange situation and I promptly did so!

Shortly before leaving the restaurant, Anna nipped to the toilet whereupon I got into a conversation with two German couples at the next table and who were on a night out. When Anna returned from the toilet, she was amused to find me in full flow entertaining the two German couples who were great fun and most interested in who we were, and what we were doing. I suspect meeting two trans peeps had not been in their thinking for the evening out.

Now being a social sort, I did not assume too much at first but slowly and surely it began to dawn on me that one couple were possibly a bit too interested in me. The first offer was from the wife/girlfriend who was determined that I go for a cigarette with her outside to have a girl chat (talking girl stuff – great, smoking - bad) Then the boyfriend was determined for Anna and myself to go to Karaoke with them despite the fact it was some distance away. Now this was a super tempting offer because I have had many great nights out with German friends because they are great company, and like Brits, enjoy a drink or two. However, it was clear by the wolfish look in the chap’s eyes that they had plans for us other than singing. Very similar to Frankie Four Fingers in the film Snatch, I got flashbacks of previous disaster …oh no will this be another occasion where I end up thinking “How did I get into this situation!?”

So, thankfully I plucked up some courage and gracefully declined the opportunity to go partying, and in all probability getting turned into a Steffie sandwich. Instead, I went home happily with Anna to sing, dance and generally have a right old carry-on. We shot some really fun video clips and got into fits of giggles about me losing my hair to the wig thieves as shown below. Oh dear…

The following morning Anna and I happily parted ways feeling all the better for having avoided a massive session with the group of Germans from the night before. I had finished my job in Denmark so left the apartment and went straight to Avis to drop off the rental car before getting on a plane to fly home to the UK – for good. I would now have six weeks free to do as I please before starting my new job and I was super excited for this time off. I had plans to catch up with friends and family, go skiing, get my house in order, and progress transition plans. And that is where fate stepped in with a different plan.

The last week in February was my first week back at home and it was quite pleasant. With no constraints whatsoever I planned to dress full time and that is exactly what I did. Wonderful! It might surprise some, but I am unbelievably efficient when presenting as female-me, mainly because my mind is much calmer and I am happier internally being closer to my true self. So, I had a nice time meeting friends and socialising in addition to getting on with all the mundane business of unpacking and sorting out finances/utilities. Coronovirus was being discussed more frequently in the media but as life continued as normal it just seemed like background noise. So, I went to see my parents and siblings the first weekend home and now I am very pleased that I did that whilst I had the opportunity.

In my second week at home I decided to focus my efforts on my transition activities before the new job would rightly occupy my full attention. So, I quickly signed up with a new laser and electrolysis beautician, had a skype call with Facial Team in Spain, enquired about voice coaching, and ordered new female glasses (no more driving half blind for me!) But regardless of my happy and single-minded state of being, it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the dark shadow of Covid-19 as it spread across the globe. Errr, excuse me Coronovirus what are you doing? You are getting in the way of my plans!

So, with no restrictions in place at that time, I merrily went about my normal life including a number of very nice days out, bringing me nicely onto a lovely shopping story from that week. So, whilst trying on a work skirt and top in the female changing rooms in Next, I remembered that there was also a matching jacket on display. As the shop was very quiet, I opted to just leave my things in the changing room whilst I went out on the shop floor to find the jacket. As I walked back out into the shop I was not carrying anything so it is maybe not too surprising that a lady approached me to ask if I could find her size in a dress she was holding…as she clearly thought that I worked in the shop! I smiled politely and explained that I did not work there, at which point on hearing my voice she clocked me and looked amazed. The lady was then most apologetic for accosting me, but also very quick to say how good I looked and that she would never have known had she not spoken to me. It was such a simple moment really, but it totally made my day as I was obviously passing quite well.

Now up until this point my life had preceded with no Covid-19 impact but that was all about to change. My first insight into the real scale of the virus came from a Danish ex-colleague who had returned from a skiing trip in Austria and reported that a number of people had become quite sick in the ski village. I started to feel some level of genuine concern as the individual in question has a medical background and not prone to exaggeration.

So, the next day, I decided to do some research online to see if these virus claims had any validity. Now as we all know, researching health matters online has a tendency to invoke fear and panic. Every minor ailment leads you to believe you have cancer. Therefore, I approach health matters online with a huge pinch of salt unless originating from a highly credible source, say for example, the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, as I started seeing videos online from China and official reports from the WHO, it was clear that even after applying a mountain of salt there was no getting away from the fact that Covid-19 was an emerging pandemic.

So, with the same efficiency as my transition activities I decided to cancel my ski trip. I can now say with confidence that this is easily the best decision I have made in quite some time. Had I not cancelled my trip, there is a possibility that I may have ended stuck up the side of a mountain with hundreds of young ski nymphs.

I must be honest and admit two silly thoughts that I had in the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak. Firstly, I was a bit annoyed with myself the day after cancelling the ski trip as I started to wonder if I had over-reacted… after all how bad could it be? Then my second silly notion was that it would probably be “just as well” to get Covid-19 and then move on.

Well it is fair to say that I have changed my mind considerably since the first week that the UK outbreak was officially declared. A few days after cancelling my ski trip accommodation, the airline carrier informed me that they had cancelled both my flight to Geneva for skiing, but also an internal domestic flight I had booked to go to London a few weeks later. The mass cancellation of flights by cash strapped airlines is highly irregular and would, in all probability, only have occurred as a result of highly credible and reliable data that there was significant business risk. It was also clear that being so open about getting the virus was maybe not the best plan, given that the outcomes are so variable, even between people within the same age group. Okay, this was maybe a bit more serious than I had first given credence.

Fortunately, I did not need to dwell too long on Covid-19 before I had a little pick-me up in the form of nice feedback on my pictures. A lovely lady in Russia called Марина Мельчинская posts pictures on her website of the most beautiful dressers and drag artists from around the world. I was honoured last year with being included on the list, along with I may add a good number of dear friends. In the picture below you can see my Vampire pictures all covered in Russian text and for some reason I always find this so striking seeing my pictures covered in a foreign language. I am just hoping that her free advertising in Russia can attract a suitably rich Oligarch to fund my ridiculously lavish lifestyle! Where will we live…Chelsea would be good…Siberian steppe definitely not so good…

A little bit of online love...nice!

I was also stupidly pleased that one of my favourite online shops gave me positive feedback on Instagram. For those girls who like retro styling I would encourage you to look at TopVintage.net from whom I have bought a large number of very nice and high-quality dresses. It is not a cheap site for sure, but they have some really special retro dresses that are out of this world. Anyway, after posting a picture of myself in a Glamour Bunny dress and tagging them, they returned a like heart which made me very pleased indeed. One of my key suppliers approves of me :D

So, in the first week in March the virus was now starting to have a real impact on everyday life in the UK. We received direct instructions from the Prime Minister, no less, that we should limit social contact and not make any non-essential journeys. Oh no! Closer to home, most of the high street shops were still open but contained very confused staff about what they should be doing to protect themselves. Then my appointments for hair removal were cancelled to protect customers and beauticians, a move that was completely understandable. Nevertheless, the virus was now starting to overpower my drive and determination to get on with my life.

Now it is times like these that are a real test of our true character. I know all too well from my own life experience that when things start to look a bit crappy it is important to not linger in the past but instead get on with what you need to do. It is also important to find some light at the end of the tunnel so that you have a reason to live in fashion that is better than just surviving. We will all pull through this and when we do, we will need life to resume at full speed so best to stay positive and prepare for that now. Swift Bar in Soho…line up the Pornstar Martinis on the bar please because I will be coming in hot!

I read an excellent book during my training some years ago that explained that the human mind is not conditioned to coping in a state of permanent fear or else our ancestors would never have left their caves. So, it is important to find outlets to occupy yourself and that is exactly what I did. I got out all my camera equipment, lighting boxes, retro clothes and did photo-shoots at home with a large number of different outfits. I also continued to work efficiently through my list of domestic tasks and continued getting my house in order.

In the final week of normal British life as we knew it, I continued to go about my business and indeed, fitted in one final shopping trip as shown below. It was quite a strange experience walking around in Aberdeen as the streets were already largely empty. Everything would be closed down completely a few days later and so whilst some may think I was taking a risk; it was important for me to get out as much as I could before I was confined to my house.

So, on that final day out in town I went around the shops quite calmly and enjoyed having entire floors of shoes and dresses to myself in the department stores. I have since wondered if a complete loss of style is a symptom of Coronovirus because the dresses I tried on that day were hideous. That said, I had a lot of free time on my hands to try on whatever I wanted in what appeared to be my very own personal Debenhams store.

So, what have I been up to since then? Well I have rewritten this blog about four times as well as spending a lot of time staying in touch with friends on social media. Thankfully we live in a period of time when we can all stay in touch easily and I would encourage everyone to keep having happy little check-ins with friends online to ensure everyone is doing okay. I desperately hope that people can remember to behave in a kind and compassionate manner no matter how frustrated they may be with this situation.

I myself will admit I have had my ups and downs about the whole situation but that is a typical grief response to a situation in which an individual feels loss. The loss in my case is ice cold Pornstar Martinis served up by a hot Australian bar man in Freedom Bar. What?! Nothing wrong with enjoying that view at all :D

In terms of offline activities, I have focused on being productive so have done a lot of jobs around my house, started to learn Spanish, and have started to work simultaneously on a number of my themed photo-shoot projects. Now, I had promised myself not to start into any new expensive themed projects this year as I want to save up for my transition including hair removal, a hair transplant, and a few other procedures I will have further down the line. However, our current predicament means that transitioning activities are unlikely to resume before summer and who knows, maybe not even until Autumn. As I am also stuck in the house and not working, my financial outgoings are also very low. So, with these changes I need to adapt to the situation so why not crack into a few projects to help keep me occupied?

Development board for Fallout raider "Barbie"

So, the planning for my themed events has taken off big time and become one of my main activities for the next three weeks before I start my new job. Anticipating that we could be in lockdown for 12 weeks or more, I decided last week to order literally everything I might need for three different projects and am certain I can keep myself happily occupied for some time.

So here are some more details of the projects I am now working on, for those who have an interest. The project nearest to completion is my Yennefer costume, based on a character from the Witcher 3 Wild Hunt video game. This costume has been in development now for six months mainly as a result of being put on hold whilst I moved home. In the trial fitting picture below the costume is not complete as I am still missing the correct wig and strapped boots.

The wig for the Yennefer costume is easily solved and I will buy another wig from lovely Anna in the US who runs Wantable Wigs. The boots however have been a completely different challenge. Trying to find matching above the knee boots in my size has proven so difficult I had nearly given up on finding a pair. Then by a stroke of good fortune, I came across a video of the beautiful Jessica Pur on her Youtube channel in which she recommended her bootmaker in Berlin for anyone looking for special custom-made boots. Well if they are good enough for a beautiful Germanic goddess then they are good enough for me! So, I contacted Fernando Berlin bootmakers and to my delight they were very interested in my project and pleased to supply a custom-made pair of boots to match Yennefers style. Hurray!

Trial fit of my Yennefer of Vengerburg costume

Now…I could completely sidetrack at this point and disappear down a rabbit hole telling you about how wonderful I find Jessica Pur but bear with me… there is a really useful tranny hack coming up. So, I regularly watch the youtube channels of a number of beautiful women/models to learn their poses, how they move, their views on fashion, and basically how to be as a woman. You may think this is over the top, but I will let you watch some of Jessica’s videos on her youtube channel and you can decide for yourself. Personally… I think I might actually want to be her…my word she is an inspiration in so many ways and owns so many lovely shoes!

Soooo...getting back to themed projects, I started to bounce around ideas for my Fallout Raider cosplay costume a few weeks ago when another friend suggested that I have the looks and gestures to do Harlequin from Suicide Squad. My immediate thoughts were “no chance, Margot Robbie is too young, too thin and way too pretty to complete with!” However, the more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it. So that is another project slated for this year. So, whilst we may be in isolation in this strange time I for one have certainly found my light at the end of the tunnel and renewed my creative passion for things I enjoy. Maybe it will give you some inspiration for what you could do?

I might look like a secretary here but this is not a themed shoot..this is my real life now!

Final Remarks

And so dear readers that brings you up to speed with my little life and silly goings-on. I confess with honesty that I have been through cycles of acceptance and then sadness with our current situation, but this is definitely the time to recognise that somethings are just bigger than us as individuals. We must always look for the positives each day in this situation and try to find moments of happiness, sharing them with others online where we can.

I cannot tell you how many times I have reflected that returning to the UK before the outbreak was the best decision I have ever made, even if it was in luck rather than good judgement. In my experience there is nothing worse than being unwell or injured in an unfamiliar place and home is always where we want to be when we feel poorly. If you believe in fate and that everything happens for a reason, then you might even imagine that the bad experiences I had last year in Denmark had been designed to make me go home to the UK before everything went pear shaped with Covid-19. I saw all my relatives the first few weekends I was back and managed to see some dear friends. I am so thankful for that opportunity now.

I wish you all health and happiness at this time and if isolated remember, this time will pass, and we will see brighter days again.