Girly road trip: Scotland’s tropics, epic pics

Last summer I stopped by the set of Indiana Jones and went to the southernmost point of Scotland. And, yes, changed my dress along the way for the sake of variety.

Glasgow city centre had been remade as New York in 1969(?), so I plumped for my short, retro minidress. It was about 7am on a Sunday morning, and I managed to sweet-talk the bemused and baffled security people into letting me slip past the gates for a couple of minutes to get some shots in – I didn’t chance my luck by walking onto the main set, but I think I did well enough.

This is the face of someone who got up way too early.

I think the guards took it well – I mean, they’re paid a pittance, and they’re not expecting a crossdresser turning up first thing on a Sunday to prance about in heels around their workplace. As for the film, I’m kinda shrugface about seeing it; I’m pretty much done with seeing my childhood heroes return to TV or cinemas looking and acting all old, sad, and tired.

Ailsa Craig: Imagine the screeching of car tyres, me hopping out, a quick photo being taken, then leaping back into the car and driving off with squealing tyres and a roaring engine.

We stopped off for an impromptu shot of the island of Ailsa Craig just off the Ayshire coast before arriving at Logan Botanical Garden on the Mull of Galloway. I gather it’s in some sort of microclimate, and on a good summer’s day resembles the Isles of Scilly rather than Scotland…

This is the front gate…
Hello there!
Wonderwall?

My dress was rather short. I’d try to pull the hem down a bit, but there’s not actually any more hem to pull down. So I have to walk and pose carefully, lest I flash my knickers at unsuspecting passers-by. Reader, I flashed my knickers at unsuspecting passers-by. And because this was a botanic garden in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday, the others were all pensioners: goggle-eyed old men and their disapproving wives ushering them away from the brazen hussy in the slutty dress (“This way, Gerald! It’s more civilised over here!”)

Left: this is what I look like when I’m chasing Jeff Goldblum in a jeep. Right: FILTH, sheer filth, and I’d do it again.

The gardens featured a few novelties, like a tyrannosaurus made out of growing tree branches, and large phallic-shaped flowers that were begging for suggestive photos. I have to say, photos aside, that it was the perfect day to visit and I’d go there again – it’s got all the tropical appeal of a foreign holiday, yet it’s all within a morning’s drive from Edinburgh…

Got wood?
Sploosh
I see London, I see France…

Just a little bit further south (and one change of dress later) is the Mull of Galloway lighthouse, the southernmost tip of the Scottish mainland. It’s characterised by steep cliffs and a touristy cafe which might have steep prices, but I can’t honestly tell you (for these trips we bring picnic lunches…).

I’ve got this thing about great heights and steep drops: it’s not vertigo, it’s more a sense that I love the view but a fucked-up little voice in my head keeps saying “jump… just jump.. do it… wheee! end it…. splat.. go on… jump…” and I find myself staying well away from the edge.

My other worry was gusts of wind threatening to make my dress lift up and make me Marilyn Monroe in front of everyone else.

Just the tip: the Mull of Galloway

Otherwise, it’s not a place you’re likely to spend a huge amount of time. We headed back up to Castle Kennedy, a ruin with fabulous gardens. Fabulous gardens you say? Time to strike some fabulous poses and ignore the families on their day out from Glasgow…

Wrecked

There’s a lot to explore in the estate: colourful walled gardens, a lake, art features, bridges and walking paths all over the place. We could stroll about at a gentle pace. It wasn’t hugely busy, and it made for a relaxing end to the day out. (The journey home was enlivened by a prick in a sports car being chased by the police along the M74 and pulled over – seeing that kind of quick karma was the cherry on the cake of a great day out!)

Adding a bit of colour
Fucking roasting
Wish you were here?

When I met The Ladyboys Of Bangkok…

The Ladyboys’ show has been visiting the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since the 90s, and it’s only recently I went along to see them. It put me in a thoughtful mood… (this had been in my drafts folder for far too long!)

First of all, it’s impossible not to be aware of sensitivities regarding words and names, and that ‘ladyboy’, however it might have been regarded in the past, is now considered offensive (‘kathoey’ is the correct term in Thailand). Personally, I specifically use the term to describe the show or the performers (like it or not, that’s the brand name they perform under; and changing the name would likely confuse the fans and harm the business). Whether you take offence at the name or not, it was clear to me that many in the audience for the Ladyboys were devoted fans who loved the show.

When they first came to people’s attention in the UK in 90s, they were treated as something of a punchline. I spent my student summers working in a Fringe venue box office, and was involved with a show each night so I never really had the chance to go along and watch. To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested. The only time I saw them was when they were caught out in a rainstorm walking through one of the city parks – they stood out because compared with the locals and fellow Fringe-goers they were all outstandingly pretty (even off-duty), and they were wearing the most gloriously impractical clothing for a Scottish summer (and platform heels on cobbled streets is a brave decision!).

It was a long, long time later before a friend suggested we go along and check out the show, and I figured what the hell – clearly they were doing something right to have lasted this long, so why not see what the fuss was about? All I really knew was that they pitched their tent where they could, and the music was loud. Otherwise, they just felt like part of Edinburgh’s artsy background noise.

The show is an energetic song & dance cabaret mixing solo and ensemble performances (and a ton of costume changes), with lots of lipsynching to well-known songs and parodies (like the adult version of She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain When She Comes, with lyrics like “I was very nearly coming when you came…”). In between are smaller sketches and audience interactions. Some of the Ladyboys’ troupe were boys; one was relatively senior in years, and swapped between male and female presentation throughout the show; one was more diminutive and what they lacked in height they made up for with a powerful pair of lungs to belt out songs; and one was a slightly plumper jester/’madame’ who would harrass the men in the audience.

The audience was mostly middle age to elderly women, and quite often little old ladies would jump up and try to dance during the performance – sometimes being steadied by a friend or relative.

A notable scene – played straight – involved the senior Ladyboy slowly changing out of her evening gown into a suit while singing I Did It My Way – singing as a woman until the very end, when she removed her wig and sang as a man for the last refrain. I found it oddly affecting – I’ve long known that I won’t be doing Twist stuff forever, and at some point I’ll take the wig off and never put it back on again. Will I do it singing My Way, or will I simply not realise it’s the last time? That was the sober part of the show – it can’t be comedy and high energy all the time…

The only other bit that gave me pause for thought was the the jester/madame’s humiliation of men in the audience. Every so often she picked a victim, dragged them on stage, and groped them to cheers from the audience. The worst one I reckoned (hoped!) had to be an audience plant (we saw him later leave via the staff exit) – he refused to kiss the jester/madame on stage, so she got him on the floor and dry-humped him. My friend and I understood how this routine started as a way of “power-rebalancing”, by dishing sexual humiliation out to the men, but it felt kind of dated. (That, and I’m not keen on ‘prank’ humour – it’s a bit like comedy wanking in that the only one really having fun is the one doing it, not the one who’s on the receiving end…)

In all other aspects, the show seemed to be really in tune with the times in its message and inclusivity. Everyone was gorgeous, funny, and talented, and I’m amazed at the energy they put into the performances, given they do both lunchtime and evening shows (we went at lunchtime). But if the performers weren’t the Ladyboys, would there be anything special about it?

Afterwards we had a chance to get our photo taken with them. I felt kinda frumpy standing next to them (okay, a lot frumpy) – who wouldn’t want to look as good as they do? – and I got a lovely reaction from them when they heard my voice and figured me out!

Spot the odd one out…

Girly road trip: what’s in for you at Inverewe

I like to get around a bit. Travelling, I mean. So one challenge I occasionally give myself is to see how far I can travel in a day in girly mode before a combination of tiredness and beard growth ruins the effect.

I fucking love an exciting road trip.

Last year I figured we could get to Inverewe garden, which is way up in the remote north-west of Scotland, and stop off at any scenic points of interest along the way. To get this done in a single day, we had to leave at sparrowfart, aka “silly o’clock”, aka “what the hell time do you call this?” We had a picnic breakfast halfway up the A9 between Edinburgh and Inverness. You don’t do a trip like this for the glamour…

Gorge-ous.

Our first scenic stop was Corrieshalloch Gorge, where I found out two things:

  • it was impossible to get a photo that showed both me and the sheer depth of the gorge in the same shot; and
  • other people were dressed in sturdy hiking boots and waterproof gear – I was the only one who’s chosen to wear a cardigan and fabulous dress (which nicely hid my struggle with lockdown flab).
An Teallach is a mountain whose name makes English-speakers sound like they’re talking with their mouth full.

The only other scenic stop was an impromptu pause at the roadside to get a view of proper highland wilderness. I figured this trip was likely to be a one-and-only-chance to get photos at these places, so I became more vigilant for epic views.

Yes, I always check the weather before risking a long road trip…

Inverewe garden takes advantage of a microclimate just off the Gulf Stream, so it has a whole load of tropical plants growing there. We’d been there a few years earlier when the ‘North Coast 500‘ had just been established, and we could now see hints that over the pandemic some parts of the garden’s upkeep must’ve been less of a priority (we explored the whole lot). That’s not to say it was overgrown or ruined – far from it! – simply that a few bits simply weren’t as pristine as they used to be.

Yes, this is the north-west coast of Scotland. No, I can’t believe it either.

Naturally, I can’t do photos without acting like a daft arse, so here you go:

Aw man that’s some good shit right there, BRING THE POLLEN! BRING THE HAYFEVER!!!
I’m all about boobs and plants, yo.
Apparently it is easy being green after all

It took hours to get there, so with the knowledge that it’d take hours to get back home we had to head back after lunchtime and take advantage of whatever scenic views we could get on the way. We’d also been incredibly fortunate with the weather. Not bad for the first girly road trip since before Covid-19!

Gairloch: I’m sure there are gayer lochs, but I don’t know where they are.
Loch Bad an Sgalaig is another challenge for people who don’t speak Gaelic… (Google Translate says it means “patch the scalp” which leaves me none the wiser)
Loch Maree: I don’t think I was supposed to be here.

Our last stop was at Loch Maree where I’d spotted a pier at a scenic viewpoint on the online maps. When we got there we found the short driveway down to the lochside was barred by a locked gate. Yet another car was parked there and a family swimming in the loch.

We went down to take photos, and the family group all got out of the water, flustered, and in a hurry to leave. I suspect they – like us – were chancing it, and we were all tresspassing.

What the hell. I got the photo I was after. But in a moment of stupidity I left my sunglasses on the pier. They’re probably still there for all I know.

So much for “take only photos, leave only memories”!

Getting over the ups and downs

How did I get halfway through the year already??? And what happened to all those blog posts I had planned?

I can answer the second question straight away: they’re on their way. As for the first part… I guess I just got distracted by life in general. I don’t post about my life in non-Twist mode (not relevant to the blog, at least as I intend it), but sometimes the non-Twist stuff needs to be attended before I can go off on more adventures.

For one thing, I’ve got a garden now, and I’ve been learning about Zen And The Fine Art Of Murdering Plants the hard way. So that’s a happy distraction.

Digging trenches for the battle of Hoth.

I’ve also been spending a good chunk of the year losing my lockdown flab (again).

I was sick of being out of breath, tired, and feeling like a sack of potatoes. So I renewed my acquaintance with the swimming pool and have been jumping into the granny lane at 5.30am twice a week. I’ve also been having regular pre-breakfast walkabouts before the city wakes up – kind of like Batman on patrol, minus the whole beating-up-clowns-at-night thing, and swapping the cape for running shoes. (So, nothing at all like Batman.)

I have been getting in touch with my inner self. I make sure to mop up afterwards. And the neighbours asked me to stop doing this outside because the noises I make agitate their pets.

I’ve reached the point where I’m Twist-shaped once more (and probably fitter than I was fifteen years ago; now there’s a statement that screams “mid-life crisis”). I have no idea what adventures I want to go on this year, so I’ll just take things as they come.

Looking forward to a new dawn! …which will likely be blowing a gale, so keep your hair on.

Meanwhile, I have plenty to share from last year, and I’ve finally selected which pictures to use (sometimes I have something to say, and choose how to illustrate it afterwards; other times I have a bunch of photos and then work out what stories they tell…).

Stay tuned!

Magnificent bumps. On the landscape, I mean.
You still haven’t seen the back of me yet.

Girly road trip: Dumbarton rocks?

A couple of years back I went on a day trip with one of my friends to Dumbarton, on the grounds that I hadn’t been there before and I also wanted to get some photos from around the west of Scotland for a change.

I have mastered the single entendre.

I wear my history nerdishness lightly, but I’ve long been interested in Dumbarton Rock, which was the last northern stronghold of the ancient Britons to fall to the Vikings in the eighth century (welcome to my blog; come for the crossdressing, stay for the history!).

It was a good day for it, and we could see for miles all around from Glasgow to Holy Loch and Benmore. It’s easy to see why there’s always been one castle or another here over the centuries (the name comes from Gaelic ‘Dùn Breatann‘, or ‘Fort of the Britons’). It had a garrison of soldiers until World War 2, but now most of it’s a mishmash of fortifications, old storage buildings, and ruins.

Inspired by the Greek myth of Andromeda. And bondage.

Aside from cannons serving purely decorative purposes, there are still mysterious remnants, like large metal rings embedded in the rockface. were they used for ropes to haul ammo and food around? Or flags? Or to anchor things in place? (I found my own uses.)

Flagging a bit in the high winds…

The top of the rock was exposed to high winds blowing off the Atlantic, so I’m glad I had a hair band clasping my wig to my head. Fortunately my friend was a photographer and worked out how to get the best shots…

The only spot on Dumbarton Rock without wind…

We had a short picnic in the sun on one of the battlements and pottered about the surviving buildings. The place works well for a short blast of fresh air and exercise!

Getting carried away?

At this pandemic-y moment in 2022 (in Scotland at least), most of my friends are still wary about travelling and mingling too much, but when things improve, you’d better believe I’ll be posting more travels around the country!
(Edited to add: HOLY SHIT THIS IS MY BLOG’S TENTH ANNIVERSARY POST!)

Dumbarton rocks!