Tranford Tales – Ginger

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My name was Roy, but nobody apart from the teachers, Mam and Nan called me that. For all the kids, I was Ginger. Guess what colour my hair was?

My sister Kathy (older by two years) called me Woy for quite a long time, then nothing at all, then Ginger because it annoyed me. She was as ginger as me, but informed me that a woman was a redhead and glamorous. Mama and Nan were both blondes (though increasingly aided by a bottle) so I guess it must have been our dad, though we knew nothing about him. My surname was McMath, so maybe he was Scottish — Mam and Nan were not, but proud Lancashire.

People confused it with McGrath, and when I made a mistake in maths at school, the teacher would say “Oh, that’s a bit of McMathematics, is it?” or some such thing. The other kids made fun of me and that didn’t help me learn.

No-one called my sister Ginger, at least not twice, unless they wanted a smack, no matter how big they were. She was definitely a bossyboots, and a bit of a tomboy until teenage, when she changed like a butterfly into a beautiful woman. She was a cracker and she knew it. She had always told me that girls were superior to boys. Now it was easy to believe that women were superior to men. She could wind them round her little finger.

She married and had children early like Mam. I never found the right one for me.

Years later, I was a barman. The customers called me Ginger and made jokes about drinks with ginger. (The same ones all the time.) It was all right, if they were happy and drinking. My mate Alf was about the only one who called me Roy. We lived together — nothing like that — just two blokes who shared a flat.

I had gone to college and done a full catering course — cooking, waiting, everything. I liked cooking — at least I had with my Mam and Nan, but I didn’t like the stress there was in a restaurant kitchen, and preferred plain home cooking to poncy stuff. I liked serving, but I wasn’t really posh enough for a good restaurant, and anyway the waitresses got more tips. So bar work it was.

Alf had no qualifications (apart from his driving licence and his personal licence to sell alcohol), yet here we both were, serving in a bar, and living together.

It’s not exactly stable employment, but it has its compensations. We got around a bit, including summers abroad as extra help with the British tourists. Everything from drinking dens to posh hotels, but the thing we liked best was proper pubs.

I really had only two dreams, both impossible. One was to run our own pub. But we hadn’t got the capital, and brewers want an arm and a leg. Anyway, people aren’t going to pubs so much, so they’re closing. It’s cheaper to buy stuff from the supermarket and sit at home chatting online instead of actually going and sitting together. The smoking ban is a good thing, but no profits from ciggies.

I didn’t do well at maths at school, but it turned out there were some sums I could do. Take a complicated order for a round of drinks, and I could tell you immediately how much it cost. Calculating amounts and times for big meals wasn’t difficult for me at all, though many students struggled. We had done some business finance at college, and somehow that seemed pretty easy as well. I guess being practical made the difference. Alf couldn’t see it, but I could straight away, which I why I could see how long it would take to afford it on bar wages.

My other dream was to be a waitress.

It wasn’t about sex. We weren’t gay and I didn’t want to be fucked.

I can’t explain it. I just wanted to wear a skirt and makeup and serve in a pub.

Maybe it was something about growing up in an all-female household. And being a bit envious of the waitresses flirting to get tips.

After college I sometimes wore women’s knickers.

Alf and I became good pals, and shared rooms to save money. We talked about the women we saw at work like blokes do. Looking back, I was more likely to comment on their clothes rather than their tits.

Alf and I once worked in Spain and shared a staff room. In the wardrobe was waitress uniform and some women’s clothes. Alf thought it was a laugh when I was able to put it on. One day he dared me to put it on and go to work. One of the girls put some lipstick and eyeliner on me.

The manager told me I was fired, then saw some of the regulars laughing, so unfired me. I got quite a lot of tips, but after a few days the joke wore off, and he said he didn’t want to get a reputation as a gay bar, so I went back to myself.

Alf understood it was more than a laugh. He said he knew I sometimes wore women’s knickers and it was all right by him. I stole the outfit when we went home, and dressed up in private. He helped me to buy a couple of other dresses and some lipstick and eye stuff. We talked about going out in the evenings, but apart from that time in Spain, I never went out the door.

I grew my hair quite long (but only bloke long, and not in a poncy ponytail) which felt good when I dressed up.

Alf actually persuaded me to go and see some people about me wanting to dress up, and they said I had gender issues, but would need to live as a woman for two years before anything could be done about it. That was never going to happen.

We were in our early forties, and I had calculated we might be able to run our own pub in our sixties if we continued to save. Alf had given up chasing girls and I never had. He sometimes joked that I was the only girl for him! To be honest, apart from the fact that I couldn’t go out in a dress or be a waitress, it was a pretty good life, with a really good mate.


One day it was quiet in the saloon bar, and there were only a few old geezers playing cribbage and reminiscing.

Then one looked up from the paper and said “I see they’re planning to open the Tranford Arms. Right good pub that was!”

Others agreed, and said it was a shame how the good ones had closed down, talked about cycling there and coming back drunk, or taking the missus for a meal.

I wasn’t taking much notice till the first one remarked “Looking for tenants they are.”

“With an open and inclusive attitude, it says here — whatever that means!”

“Foreigners and poofters!” said another.

“I heard they have blokes in dresses round there,” said one, and they sniggered.

“Proper poofs. Making some kind of gay village,” someone said, and spat on the floor, so I got him to apologise. They left in a bit of a huff, leaving the paper.

As soon as I could, I phoned the number on the small ad. It was answered by what I thought for a second was a man, but she identified herself as Dilys.

“It’s about the Tranford Arms,” I said. “I hear you’re looking for tenants.”

She seemed hesitant.

“Yes, we are, but it’s a bit unusual. We haven’t quite finished the deal with the brewery, but it could be attractive. Is it just yourself, or do you have a partner? May I take your names.”

I told her it was Roy and Alf.

“Two gentlemen. I see.”

“Is that a problem?” I asked.

“No, not at all. That’s perfectly fine. Good, in fact.”

A penny was beginning to drop. Open and inclusive attitude?

“We’re not gay,” I said.

“That doesn’t matter. Or wouldn’t matter if you were. We’re just looking for a live-in couple to run a village pub. Drinks and basic meals.”

I think she was getting flustered.

“What’s the catch?” I asked.

There was such a long pause, I thought she’d gone. Then I heard her take a deep breath.

“Listen. The thing is I’m transgender. I’m a woman who used to be a man, and there might be several other people around who are… er dressed a bit different, or…”

“Blokes in dresses?” I said.

“Well yes, if you want to put it like that. I’m sorry if that offends you, but…”

“It doesn’t offend me at all. I like to wear a dress sometimes,” I cut in.

“But we really need people with an open and inclusive attitude who won’t judge people who are a bit different or make fun of them. What did you say?”

“I’m a man who likes to wear a dress,” I said, feeling a sudden surge of hope.

There was another pause.

“You do? And you and, er, Alf would know how to run a pub?”

“It’s our dream,” I said, choking a little bit with emotion. “And I’d love to be a waitress!”

I think we were both a bit stunned, but then Alf came up from the cellar, and we made arrangements to visit on our next day off.

As soon as the pub closed, we went back to our room and danced around holding hands like two children, singing “We’re going to have a pub!”

Exuberantly, Alf kissed me.

“Sorry,” he said immediately. “No offence.”

“None taken,” I said. “Let me change and you can do it again.”

That’s what happened, but it was no longer spontaneous so a bit flat. We didn’t do it again.

We just talked for a while, but didn’t really accomplish anything so went to our beds as usual.

We found out that Tranford was on the other side of the city, just outside the boundary. We weren’t locals, so didn’t know about it. Some of the old geezers said there used to be a factory, but it closed down, and the village died, but there was some new development, probably overpriced jerry-built houses that would fall down in ten years once the builders had scarpered.

The old geezers generally did not have a high opinion of the modern world.

On the day, we arrived as directed down a road where some houses were occupied and others were being built, leading to a traditional-looking pub and what looked like the beginnings of other buildings.

There was a woman waiting outside who turned out to be Dilys. At first sight you would just have taken her for a quite good-looking woman. It was only if you knew that you could believe she had once been a man. Inside there were about half a dozen smartly-dressed women, maybe thirties to sixty.

It turned out that they were some of the first residents, mostly transwomen wives except for Sophie, a nurse, who was the husband of Liz, a dressmaker. Their husbands weren’t there. Or needed, I suppose. No-one would need an open and inclusive attitude for them. Dilys was the best-looking.

We discovered that Tranford had been the idea of Dilys and her husband, Peter.

There was no alcohol, of course, with the pub having been closed, but they had made some tea and coffee, and couple of home-made cakes. We sat in the dining area and had a drink and cake while we talked about ourselves, and they told us about themselves. That is, what they and their husbands did for a living. Absolutely no-one talked about being transgender or anything other than ordinary lives.

I told them about my certificates, including cooking and hygiene. We both knew licensing law, though had never held a premises licence, and had no criminal convictions. We had plenty of experience in bars and pubs, with Alf having the most management responsibility.

I wasn’t sure who was interviewing who. I guess a bit of both.

Dilys suggested we look over the place by ourselves, before considering the financial side and practical management of the business. She was obviously a competent businesswoman.

Alf excused himself. I thought he was going to the loo, but instead he went to the car and brought a bag.

“Why don’t we see the accommodation, and you can see how you feel in your clobber?” he whispered.

I hesitated, but followed him upstairs. There was a decent flat, where I changed, and put on a bit of makeup. It was weird, frightening and a bit exciting as we went around. Still by ourselves, but not being trapped in one room.

And if there was one place where I could be seen it would be that dining room!

I was still nervous.

There was a room which could be used for private meetings and some rooms which could be used as bedrooms for other family members (if we had any) or as guest rooms for travellers, with a toilet and shower separate from the flat. We looked at the store rooms, the cellar, the kitchen and back room. I liked the kitchen and the dining area. There were still some traditional smoked glass signs and decorations. The public toilets were to the highest standard, I was pleased to see. Not some of the grim vandal-resistant ones that certain places have to have.

I judge any drinking or eating place by its kitchens and toilets. Would they be good enough for Mam and Kathy? They were.

We both agreed it was lovely, and went to meet the ladies.

I was blushing as Alf more or less pushed me in. I think I made a bit of a stir, but they tried not to show it.

“This is a pleasant surprise!” said one. “What do we call you?”

“Roy,” I said, a bit puzzled.

“Oh, yes, of course.” And she blushed.

Obviously, they thought I would have a female name in what Alf called my clobber, though I didn’t work it out till a bit later. Alf had never called me anything but Roy, or mate.

“Well, what do you think?” asked Liz, and they looked expectantly.

“Oh, do say you’ll come!” said the one who had asked me, and someone waved her to be quiet.

“It’s a lovely pub,” said Alf, taking charge as usual. “But we’ll have to see the finances.”

“Of course,” said Liz, and she passed over a folder. To Alf, of course.

One of them rushed to bring more tea and cake while we studied the documents.

That is, I studied them while Alf looked thoughtful, which he does very well.

In summary we would be employees of the project while the village built up, with a responsibility for getting the pub ready, meeting all the legal obligations and trying to build up outside trade. The brewery would guarantee support for three years, and we would have an option for the tenancy after five years.

Alf asked for a private word, so we went upstairs again, took off a dust sheet and sat on the sofa.

“It’s never going to work,” he said. “Doesn’t matter what the figures say. We won’t survive just on the village, even if it gets as big as they hope. We’ll need outside trade, and people won’t come to a place where other customers are a bit funny.”

He squeezed my hand, and I realised he’d been holding it.

“No offence to anyone, but you’d need a lot more open and inclusive customers. They’re not going to come. You heard what the old men were saying. Sorry.”

He stood up, so I did too. I was disappointed, but he was right. Lots of restaurants start off with an optimistic financial forecast like we’d been given, but don’t last.

“So you don’t think we should take it?”

“Fuck yes we should!” he said, and gave me a hug and a kiss.

“It’s our chance to run a pub! If it only lasts a year it’ll be worth it. Three years would be fantastic. And it’ll give you a chance to be a proper waitress. Maybe it won’t be as good as you think, but at least we’d know!”

He hugged me, and I thought he was going to kiss me again, but he held back.

“Go on, girl!” he said, and I kissed him.

I think it might have been the way he called me girl. Or just the fact that we were going to run a pub.

Downstairs we went, and Alf made the announcement.

“My colleague and I would be very pleased to take up occupancy, if you choose us. May I ask how many others you have to interview, and when we might know the result?”

(He’s very good at that sort of thing.)

“There won’t be any more interviews,” said Dilys. “If you’ll take it, we’ll cancel the ad!”

A bottle of champagne was produced, and everyone had a glass, except Alf, who was driving. He just took a sip, and passed the glass to me to finish. (Yes, I know one would be under the limit, but Alf is really careful.)

Then we walked down the road as the ladies went to their homes, apart from Dilys and Liz, though Liz’s house was the one Sophie went into.

It was not just the champagne making me feel high, as I walked down the road in my waitress outfit, with nice women for whom this was normal. It could be for me!

We walked back and I began to take in a little bit more what the site was about, and the fact that it was really happening. Back at the pub Liz measured me up, and said they would supply working clothes for me — either adapting commercial workwear, or making them herself. And she would be glad to make clothes to fit me for leisure time.

“She’s a really good dressmaker,” said Dilys, “as you might have seen.”

Actually, now thinking that the people we met had basic male bodies: they were good, so she was.

As we were driving home, Alf said “Sorry.”

“About what?”

“Kissing you like that. We were both so happy, I couldn’t help it. I hope you didn’t mind.”

“No, that’s fine,” I said.

In a while he asked “How did you feel about it?”

I had to think.

“I don’t know,” I said. I’ve never thought about us in that way.”

“Me neither,” he said. “Fucking well signal, you pillock!” as he swerved suddenly.

Any moment was lost.

We had nearly got home, when I realised I was still in a dress and makeup, and began to panic.

“I’m still in a dress!” I said. “We can’t go home like this!”

“Why not?” he said calmly. “What’re they going to do? Sack us? It’s not a crime. We’ve seen guys in drag before.”

“And if anyone round here doesn’t like it, fuck ’em. Here we are.”

We got out of the car and he took the suitcase. We were behind the pub in our usual place, but there was no-one about.

I was feeling all right, till someone called out “Hello, Alf. Who’s your friend?”

It was one of the old geezers.

“Hello, Freddy,” said Alf. “I’ve got good news for you. We’re taking over the Tranford Arms!”

His face lit up.

“Fuck me! Sorry, Miss. Hang on.”

He squinted at me.

“Is that you, Ginger? What you doin’ like that?”

“They wanted a barman and a barmaid, so Roy obliged,” Alf answered.

He looked gobsmacked, then started to chuckle.

“You didn’t? Really? Well tell us when you open, and if you promise to dress up like that, Ginger, then you’ll get a lot of the lads coming for a pint!”

He went off still chuckling.

“Wait till I tell ’em!” he said to himself as he headed for the pub.

“That went well,” said Alf. I didn’t know what to say.


Alf promised there’d be no more “funny business” from him, and was as good as his word.

I wasn’t sure if I was pleased or disappointed.

Our manager understood, of course, and wished us well. She didn’t say anything about Tranford. We kept on until she had found replacements, and they had been trained up. Although we were not yet employed at Tranford we went there on our off days.

Liz took a look at me in my Spanish outfit.

“Forgive me asking,” she said, “but you don’t wear a bra?”

I shook my head. I wouldn’t know how to go about it.

“Well, I could effectively remove the bust shape so that it fits you. Some of the gentlemen who buy online like pretty dresses, but cut for a man. They don’t pretend to be women. However, most of them like a feminine shape, and a bust is a big help. So would you like me to pad or flatten the chest?”

I had never thought about it like that. Well, you don’t.

“Don’t know,” I said.

“Do you usually put some socks or something into the front?”

I nodded.

“So feminine or masculine?” she said questioningly.

“Feminine,” I said. “Definitely.”

I felt a sudden surge of something at the decision, but couldn’t describe it.

“OK,” she said. “I’ll put some shapers in this and any others. If you decide to wear a bra, I can easily take them out. I’ll do what I can with the hips. Nothing extreme, just flattering.”

“You can’t wear it all the time, you’ll have to have some others. I’ve got some pictures here.”

She showed me some standard workwear. One was a sort of hotel standard, with a choice of slacks or a plain straight skirt.

“The trouble is, the skirt’ll have a bulge at the front,” she said. “Now no-one here will mind at all, but you might, so I’ve got something similar for you to try on.”

I looked in the mirror, and yes it was obvious and I would mind.

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