This time last year I was suffering terribly with the flu, I was laid up in bed and I had just been dumped. How different my life is now! In the past twelve months, so much has happened that I feel I must make a record of it. In spite of everything, 2011 has truly been the best year of my life, mostly thanks to one person, but I'm getting ahead of myself now...
Waking up on New Years Day 2011, I had a bad headache which was annoying as I hadn't drank a drop of alcohol at the party the night before. My heart ached as badly as my head and for some reason, I was still missing my ex-girlfriend. I had made no plans for 2011, no resolutions as I find them impossible to keep!
A few weeks into the new year, my wonderful Mum said the words that set me free;
"If you want to move to Manchester, I will look after Austin."
Austin is my gorgeous Collie cross whom I couldn't imagine giving away. He is almost six years old and I've had him since he was 8 weeks old. My Mum had previously (and understandably) refused to take Austin. He was my responsibility and so I had lived with Mum and Dad, sharing walking duties (they have a dog of their own), and the costs of feeding for five years since splitting up with the girl who had given him to me! I remember at the time I couldn't bear the thought of keeping such a permanent reminder of such a short and disastrous relationship!
I'm not sure what changed my Mum's mind, perhaps after seeing the lengths I was prepared to go to to keep him (moving in with the horrid rat people for a month in 2010), she realised how hard I would find it to say goodbye. Maybe she fell in love with him as I did, watching him grow from a wilful puppy into a mature and handsome protector.
Within a few days, I had arranged several viewings around Manchester, and by the following week, I had chosen the flatshare which would be my home for two months. At the end of January, I said goodbye to my family and Austin and moved into a flat fifteen minutes walk away from work. It was a little crowded and my landlord tended to stay up late, smoking in the living room. I didn't mind much as I smoked myself.
After a month of living there, I performed my first real Gig 'Grrrrl Meets Boi' for the Lesbian Community Project and ran a workshop on being a Drag King. I had a wonderful night hanging out with all my friends and partying in the Village. The day after Grrrrl Meets Boi, I decided to pay for a subscription to Gaydar Girls. I was finally over my ex and I wanted to find somebody. Within a day, I'd met a girl who was a self confessed geek. We started chatting, and then we moved onto emails. I'll brush swiftly over the next bit, as it involves me dating two girls at the same time, but by the end of that week, I met Nickie for the first time and I immediately knew that she was the one. I knew that I would one day marry her. I was terrified to let myself fall in love after what had happened the previous December.
I ended up moving in with Nickie after a month together. That is its own story and if you'd like to read it click here. We settled into life together and it felt as though we'd known each other our whole lives. We spent the next few months enjoying ourselves. We went on holiday to Gran Canaria and partied like nobody's business, I managed to get Nickie out in Drag and she offered to manage my performance career. We met some wonderful new friends and started volunteering for the LCP as a board member. It was around that time that Nickie discovered she was to be made redundant at the end of September.
One Sunday morning in July (in case you've been living in a cave and hadn't heard), I woke up and couldn't get out of bed. My back had completely ceased in its function as the main support of my frame and I was in agony with even the slightest movement. I took a few days off work, went to the hospital and was prescribed painkillers and went back to work. After a week, it became clear I could no longer work in the office. My attempts at altering my workspace and standing at a raised workstation didn't help the pain, the painkillers made me drowsy and sick, and I was crying, unable to concentrate and making silly mistakes. Little did I know that when I left the office that day, I wouldn't return for almost five months. I think if I'd thought that at the time, it would have killed me.
To begin with, I had a little bit of work to keep me going in the shape of a website I was designing for The Happy Theatre Collective. I was still volunteering for the LCP and I was busy most of the time. I was still in agony and could barely move between bed, sofa and bathroom. Nickie made miracles happen on my birthday, planning lunch with my parents, dinner with my best friend Lucy who is amazing and fabulous and her husband Matthew who is also amazing and fabulous (they're four months away from giving me my first niece/nephew), a party at the flat AND an afternoon of board games and food with our other best pals in the world Katie and Emma.
Pride was an unmitigated disaster, I wasn't able to perform on stage or man the LCP expo stand as I'd planned, and worse still, I slipped in the bathroom at the hotel and made my back worse!
After Pride, I really thought I'd be back at work, but my back was no better and worse still, I hadn't yet had my MRI scan and so I still had no diagnosis. I was struggling to accept my limitations and Nickie was telling me off a lot for trying to hoover and iron. She had to work for two weeks in Edinburgh and after a lot of consideration and thought, I went up for the weekend, taking the train and taking my tablets as I boarded to ensure a swift descent into sleep for the duration of the journey. We had an amazing time in Edinburgh, even with the ever present shadow of pain, we "did the castle", took a bus tour and saw the sights and took an amazing tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia. During the week, Nickie had a phone interview with a new company and I was so proud when she was offered the job a couple of days later.
Nickie was made redundant as planned at the end of September and she coped amazingly well. She had been with the company for twelve years and I don't know how I would have felt in the same situation. I finally had my scan and things were starting to look up. Nickie took me on the most amazing holiday to New York. It was the break we both needed. More strong pills and a gin sent me to sleep for the flight. I woke in time to watch the descent into JFK. She'd organised a Limo to our hotel (The Plaza) and we spent the next five days being utter tourists, taking a river cruise around Manhattan Island, seeing my Uncle who lives in New Jersey, shopping, shopping, shopping and shopping, and of course eating!
Returning to the UK, 27lbs over our weight limit (whoops!) was so hard and after finding out that my scan had shown NOTHING. I slipped into crippling depression. I was still in pain and my finances were not good. Once again, my lovely Mum and Dad stepped in and along with Nickie, supported me through my very own recession.
Nearly finished now and onto December and the best month of this past year. I finally returned to work and applied for and was offered a fantastic month long secondment. Nickie and I planned for Christmas, preparing for the arrival of my lovely mother in law and her dog. I spent the whole month making Christmas Decorations, Baking and making cards and presents. Nickie, who has settled into her new job marvellously, moved furniture round (whilst I gave instructions) and we went to the Christmas Markets in Manchester. Our love for each other grows every day, and last Sunday on the 18th December, I asked Nickie to marry me and she said YES! I have never been happier, and this alone would have made 2011 a bumper year! But everything, EVERYTHING else that has happened, falling in love, my birthday, new friends, New York, Edinburgh has made this the best year of my life. The good has not only outweighed the bad, but it has totally eclipsed it and I can't keep the smile off my face!
I hope that you are as happy as I am as we move into 2012 and that you smile as much as me! Best wishes and have a very Merry Christmas,
Lots of Love,
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