At the same time as Bella Jay was becoming increasingly involved with the Rose’s business (eventually taking over the editorship of the magazine) another friend, Krystina, was also providing help with computer-related matters. Krystina worked with computers and originally contacted me in the early 1990’s to offer help with the magazine. Although she lived in Kent she visited me from time to time (initially whilst I was still with Cathy) and we soon became great friends. Krystina helped to create our first Repartee website in 1997 and a revamped version along with the Rose’s Forum in 2002.
|A dress from the Sleeping Beauty ballet that I bought from a sale of costumes at the Royal Opera House, 2002|
As our friendship grew, Krystina suggested we join forces to buy a property together which we would run as a guest house providing facilities for the TG community along the lines of my original Rose’s House in Sheffield. I had to rein in Krystina’s projections about how profitable such a venture would be and I was reluctant to take on something that would be very demanding on my time having only just had my workload producing the magazine reduced to a more acceptable level by Bella Jay. However I quite liked the idea of having regular parties and social evenings again and agreed to go ahead on the understanding that Krystina would do the bulk of the work actually running the guest house but I’d do any work required on the property.
Krystina had an extremely well-paid job earning as much in a week as I would in a year but she squandered all her income on very expensive items like a boat she hardly ever used, exercise equipment that she never used, and an extremely costly Japanese robot dog that she rarely played with. Although my income was minimal, I have always been very careful with my money, saving what I can, so, along with the home I owned outright, I actually had more capital than Krystina. I had paid only £3000 for the run-down house in Sheffield (the first ‘Rose’s House’) but after all the work I had done to improve it, sold it for £35,000 and had done reasonably well with all my properties since. Because of my circumstances I was unable to get a mortgage but Krystina could, so between us we were able to consider decent-sized properties for our venture.
Through 2002/3 we looked at many properties, mostly in the North and even into Scotland. We came close to buying a few of them but for various reasons were unable to complete until we eventually bought a house in Pontefract in 2003. I did have some concerns about the fact that the property was overlooked by surrounding houses but it was otherwise such a desirable large house that Krystina and I fell in love with it.
|A photoshoot for the Repartee 50 cover at the house in Pontefract|
We had our first party there in June 2003 and they continued monthly until April 2004. They were enjoyable but nothing like as popular as the parties we used to have during the 1980’s in the original Sheffield Rose’s House. As I feared, the tranny scene had moved on a lot since then and Krystina had nowhere near enough paying guests to provide the income she was expecting. Without her lucrative job and a mortgage to pay, I had to bail her out with additional funds from an inheritance I got in 2003 when my mother died.
Krystina was into the ‘little girl/adult babies’ scene and had a couple of parties for her friends. The first one was on a lovely summer’s day and I was dismayed that many of the guests in their pretty little-girl dresses freely cavorted in the garden in full view of the neighbours. This, along with a few of our regular guests being rather noisy when leaving our monthly parties in the early hours, made it hardly surprising that there were complaints from the neighbours. Also, our website made what we were doing fairly public and when it came to the attention of the planning department we had notice to stop because we were running the house as a business without planning permission.
|In the garden at our 'Rose's House' in Pontefract, 2003|
Even without this notice, it was clear we could not continue financially anyway so we reluctantly decided to sell the house and go our separate ways. Whilst the Pontefract house was on the market I looked for another small place where I could enjoy a quiet retirement whilst Krystina got involved with a company in Scotland and mysteriously said she was going to withdraw from the whole scene and completely disappear from everyone, including family and friends!
I got myself a small bungalow in Blyth, Nottinghamshire, and one day whilst I was getting myself settled in there, I got a call from Kevin who did gardening and other jobs for us at the Pontefract house. He asked me to return urgently as he could not get into the house. The front door was locked from the inside and he was sure Krystina was inside. I rushed back and let us both in via the back door and tragically found Krystina dead in her bed. She’d clearly been dead a day or two at least and it was concluded she had died in her sleep. She was only 35 but had led a rather unhealthy lifestyle, being overweight, eating lots of junk food and doing no exercise.
Krystina’s parents appointed me as an executor of the estate and I had to clear the house, dispose of Krystina’s belongings, sort out her financial affairs (which were a mess – the Inland Revenue had been after her for a few years for failure to pay tax), and get all the websites she was hosting transferred to my name, all of which was not at all easy. There were a few aspects of how others were involved dealing with the estate that I was not at all happy about but I just had to let it go. The house was already on the market but it took quite some time to find a buyer and eventually I did get back most of the money I had invested in the property.
|On a River Thames Boat party in 2006 wearing a prosthetic breast form|
The next few years were relatively uneventful. With Bella Jay editing the magazine I only had a couple of weeks doing the final touches to each issue before it went to the printers. I did manage to do a bit of dress-making which I love, but most of my time was taken up doing work on my bungalow including building a conservatory on the back. I’ve always done extensive work on every property I’ve been in and seem to have spent my whole life doing building and DIY work. Whenever I have got a property anywhere near like I would wish it to be, there has always been a reason to move and I’d start all over again – many times!
However, the pressure of work I was subjecting myself to was at its lowest ebb for as long as I can remember. I felt this was the time to realise my dream of living full-time as Martine. In 2007 I flew to Bangkok to have breast implants and facial feminisation surgery. It made sense to have this done in Thailand as the standard of surgery and care is first class there but the cost is much less than having it done in the UK, even taking into account air fares and hotel costs.
Before travelling to Bangkok, I was concerned about how I would manage recovering from my surgery in a strange country far from anyone I knew. I tried joining a Thai dating site with the hope of finding a friend, who would offer companionship and help with my care. I was amazed just how easy this was. I was inundated every day I went online with lots of lovely girls, often much younger than me, mostly very attractive, who were only too eager to befriend me. I had made no attempt to hide my transgender status and my profile photo was of me as a female, but not one of the girls had the slightest concerns about what I was (totally different from UK dating sites I’ve used). I was spoilt for choice and arranged to meet a girl called Teem, upon my arrival in Bangkok.
|A few months after my breast implants and facial feminisation surgery done in Bangkok, March 2007|
I was very grateful for her companionship and care with my recovery from my surgery. She showed me around Bangkok and I learned so much about the lovely Thai people. But as with many of the girls on the Thai dating site, she saw me as a ticket to a better life in the UK and kept asking for money.
My first trip to Thailand had been in April 2007 but though I was generally pleased with the feminisation, I felt the face lift hadn’t gone far enough as I still had jowls around my neck. So in July the same year I went to Bangkok again for further treatment. I met another Thai girl who was really sweet, financially undemanding, and along with her friends, we had a really great time in Bangkok. I really felt we could have a future together but it turned out she had not been honest with me. I learned later she already had a boyfriend in Denmark and went to live with him.
Then I met Toy on the dating site and developed what looked like a promising relationship despite her English not being too good. I met her when I returned to Bangkok in 2008 for a facial treatment and buttock implants. The treatment was a waste of time and I was unhappy with the implants but my relationship with Toy blossomed.
We decided to get married in Thailand in 2009. My sister and her husband would join us for the wedding and then spend a further few weeks in Thailand on holiday. After completing some of the official documentation in Bangkok we all went to Toy’s home in the North East of the country where we had a traditional Thai wedding ceremony with Toy’s family. This was a very interesting experience.
|With my new wife, Toy, at a Harmony Weekend in Matlock Bath, 2009|
Following the wedding, we returned to Bangkok as I was still not totally satisfied with my facial surgery. I had found another surgeon who would give me a much more aggressive face and neck lift. Toy wanted to have a face-lift too! I also had additional buttock implants as the ones I had before had left me with hollows on each side which I hoped would be evened out with the second pair of implants. I was very pleased with the further facial surgery but the buttocks were a mistake.
Toy lived with me for a few months in the UK but she wasn’t really adjusting to life here. She was totally dependent on me for everything and would have been quite helpless without me at her side. Her English was hardly improving and I knew she would not pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test that she would have to take if she were to remain in the UK long-term. She missed her family and wanted to spend half her time in Thailand but this was not something with which I’d have been happy.
We returned to Thailand in the winter of 2010/11 and it was agreed amicably that we would separate. I returned home without her and have not been back to Thailand since.
The annual Harmony Weekends had continued throughout and in 2005 we moved to another hotel in Ravenscar further up the coast from Scarborough because the hotel in Scarborough we had been using since 1985 had been taken over by Shearings. The new hotel was extremely popular and it would become fully booked within days of opening the bookings. Unfortunately, after a few years the hotel management objected to the behaviour of some rowdy guests and we had to look for somewhere else. I found an hotel in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire but although it was a good central location in a beautiful part of the country, the hotel was much less popular and bookings declined over the next few years until it became no longer viable. So in 2011 I decided to go back to Scarborough which had always been popular in the past despite being more out of the way for many people. Our numbers initially picked up again and we used this hotel in Scarborough until November 2017.
|At a Whitby Goth Weekend, April 2010, wearing my Victorian day dress which I made from an old pattern book.|
I had long fancied going to a Whitby Goth Weekend (WGW) event and one year whilst our Harmony Weekend was in nearby Ravenscar, a WGW happened to take place the same weekend so I went along for a few hours to see what it was like. But still I was wary about going to stay for a whole weekend, until in 2010 I had the opportunity of going along with my friend Tiffany. That was it. I was hooked and have been every year in April since. There are actually two WGWs each year but the Halloween WGW usually takes place too close to the dates for our Harmony Weekend which I could not change. Anyway, since 2011 I have organised a group to go to the April WGW each year since.
For the Harmony Weekend I have always liked to organise a fashion show as many of our guests love being volunteer models for the shows. In 2012 I met Lesley Gray who said she could arrange someone she knew to put on a show for us. Whilst chatting with Lesley I told her about how I started working for the TG scene with my Rose’s House in Sheffield and later with the house in Pontefract. She was very interested and suggested I do something similar with her. I was happy to consider the idea but did not want to become too embroiled with all the work running such a place, as had been the case with the similar previous ventures. So I went along with the idea on the understanding that I would provide the premises (if something suitable could be found at a price I could afford) and Lesley would actually run the place. I was not really happy with the bungalow I had lived in for the past 8 years and had even considered moving anyway but I had my doubts we’d find anything suitable and affordable that could become Rose’s House mark III.
I browsed the property pages though and was surprised to find a place that seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Part of the attraction was that it had a derelict part which could be converted into a really nice home for myself, but the main part of the building was a pub where we could create the TG facilities we wanted without the planning constraints that crippled the Pontefract project. I was concerned about the amount of work I’d be taking on but Lesley was very keen and appeared to be willing to do as much as she could to help. Having been on my own so long, I was enjoying her company, so was happy to proceed with the plans.
|Dressed for an event in 2011|
It took all the capital I could raise, including equity release on my bungalow, but we got the property in Sutton-in-Ashfield. This left me with no spare cash to do the essential building works on the pub so my priority was to clear my bungalow and get it in a fit state to sell. The lack of progress on the pub frustrated Lesley, though, and she turned against me accusing me of just shifting boxes (clearing the bungalow) and creating basic living space for myself rather than getting stuck into the building works on the pub, despite not having any money to do much. She also accused me of saying something different from our original agreement but could not accept that she had simply misunderstood what I had said. With such distrust we clearly could not continue so I very reluctantly had to tell her to go. I was extremely upset by this as otherwise we had got on very well, and had had some great evenings out together.
I did try to find someone else to take her place unsuccessfully but in the end decided to sell the pub part of the building but retain the rear part which I wanted to convert into my future home. At this point I happened to meet Maureen who, along with her daughter, Gabby, was very interested in taking on the pub. Their plans are to make it more up-market than the working mens pub it had been and it would be TG-friendly but not with all the facilities that Lesley and I had envisaged.
With the sale of the pub and later the sale of my bungalow finally completed, I have since been renovating the semi-derelict building behind the pub that is gradually becoming my new home. Initially I had a builder doing the major work (essentially a barn conversion) but he was very expensive and I was running out of money fast so for the last few of years I’ve been doing most of the work myself.
Postscript: There may be a further part to appear here if I ever get around to it. Also many people have asked if my story would ever be published as a book. Well I have had to leave so much out in the story so far that I would love to write a much-extended version for publication as a book one day - maybe!
Part 3 Rose's House & Repartee Magazine
Part 2 The Travel Years
Part 1 The Early Years