For those of you who were intrigued by the weekender article in the Guardian (aug 6th) here is the full piece.
• Full name: Alex Drummond (@grrlAlex) • age: 47 & 1/2
• Where do you live: In the South Wales Valleys
• What do you do?
I’m a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist, academic, author, artist, artisan and social activist. People who know me will tell you I’m always on the go and I never stop – I’d say that’s probably mostly true – yeah, I love the variety and I get a real buzz from the endless creativity my work affords me. My main job is as a therapist – I talk through people’s problems with them in a structured way to help them deal better with emotional health issues such as anxiety, depression, work related stress, relationship problems. I also have particular expertise in LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender) issues and research and clinical expertise in managing adult ADHD. It’s a great job because I get to help people live happier and more contented lives and that gives me really deep satisfaction.
• How did you end up with your job?
At 31, I’d just qualified as a teacher and spotted an ‘introduction to counselling skills’ course being run for free during the summer vacation by the local tertiary college. I’d always loved helping people and listening to people’s problems so it seemed perfect – and I figured it might help add to my CV so I went – I loved it so much I got hooked. After I started teaching I found a counselling course that ran in the evenings and over the next four years studied part time fitting in the study around my work as a secondary school teacher. I did some voluntary work with a counselling agency and further study to get my accreditation and gradually started building my private practice. As the counselling work grew I reduced my hours at school until I finally left and went full time self-employed as a therapist.
• What is your favourite place outside of London and why?
My partner and I love Barry Island here in South Wales. Mostly we love Boofys fish and chip shop which is totally the bestest and a fairly regular treat if we have a day out. Barry Island was of course the location for some of the Gavin and Stacey series and it clings tenously to this fleeting moment of renewed fame. Barry Island was once a great destination for the people of the Welsh Valleys to come to the seaside for a day out: once it was a thriving town of traditional holiday amusement and entertainment, but now it has a sad poignancy about it – the poverty and hardship is evident, this once great town is now long past its heyday but somehow it retains a curious charm – maybe that of a lost era. The amusement park had been semi-derelict for a while and especially in the winter could look like something from a Scooby-Doo cartoon (an old abandoned amusement park Scoob -zoiks!) Thankfully, the amusement park has recently been bought out and is starting to enjoy a renewed flush of life. And of course, Barry has always had its beautiful sandy beach and rock pools and coastal path and it even has crazy-golf and penny arcades so it definitely ticks all the boxes.
• What is your favourite thing to do on the weekend?
I love making and fixing stuff – so generally I’m happiest in my studio or in my shed being creative or working on one of the many restoration projects I have. During the summer I’m often up at Blaenavon Heritage Railway as one of the volunteers or sometimes out with my vintage Showman’s Lorry and my Hoopla stall at one of the many local vintage vehicle shows I attend in the summer. Being self employed means I’m not tied to weekends so I can have a day off in the week and this allows my partner and I to go out and have time together – we love going to places like the Botanical Gardens in Carmarthenshire or to the pier at Weston Super-Mare. The Wetlands in Newport are great place for a walk amongst nature, and sometimes we’ll just go out shopping in Cardiff or trek out to find some antique shops. And of course we love Barry Island.
• Where are you most likely to be found on Friday night, Saturday day,
Saturday night, Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon? Describe a typical weekend?
Friday is a full day of work for me – I’ll see a few clients in the morning take a break in the middle of the day and then work through to late into the evening mostly finishing at 9:30pm. I love my work -I get a real buzz from it and I’m lucky to have a job that suits me and the way my brain likes to work: working late is very much part of that. Saturday is a day off of sorts. Well, I say day off- I don’t really do days off: the past few Saturdays have been fairly typical – I ran a training event on LGBT issues in counselling; attended a conference on Transgender; I’ve been out with my vintage lorry and fairground hoopla stall at the Blaenavon heritage day event; done some servicing and repairs on the fleet of vehicles we own and even done some restoration work on our house. Sundays I am most likely to be found in my shed making stuff – I’m currently working on a steam bending jig to restore another hoopla roundstall and I’m also building a new and bigger shed for another restoration project – a 1950′s Showman’s Living Van – the poor old girl is desperate to get under cover – the weather in Blaenavon is harsh and she’ll not cope with another winter.
Sunday night is normally work again – for many people seeking counselling, it needs to be fitted around their work so offering evening appointments is essential – and that includes Sundays.
• Are you into cooking/gardening/any other domestic pastimes? If yes,
tell us about it.
I love cooking but because my work means me working six nights per week most of the cooking falls on my partner bless her who is good at consistently putting nourishing and wholesome food on the plate. So, when I get to cook it tends to be a Saturday thing and it can be more fancy – I get to do the flash stuff which is great for me and kinda works for us as a couple.
• Do you have a garden? What’s your favourite thing about it?
My philosophy with gardening is to have plants that are low maintenance and fill the space so that weeding is a minimal activity and I get to enjoy the colours and textures of the plants we have. My favourite plants are my beautiful helebores (helliborus orientalis), delicate almost coquettish flowers that are among the first to bring life and beauty into the garden to herald spring. Summer brings the white trumpets of my zantedeschia. I love structural plants like the Gunnera and Rheums and of course the Mahonia which joins my Helebores in heralding the arrival of spring with its bright yellow fronds.
• What do you cook? Describe a typical weekend meal.
I love cooking and I’m big on sauces – my creativity finds good outlet in the kitchen. My fave meal to cook would maybe be sauteed Duck breasts with asparagas and pan-roasted potatoes (I parboil them, bash the edges in the colander then deep fry them in the wok to make them really fluffy and crispy) For the sauce I’ll see what grabs my fancy – capture the juices from the duck breasts and add maybe Cherries, bit of jam, Marsala, chilli flakes, garlic, spring onions or shallots , bit of seasoning, might even use juniper berries – I taste as I go and get
inspiration from what’s on the shelf and what just feels right – its more emotional intelligence than intellectual when I cook.
• Are you a cyclist or a car person?
I used to love cycling – but either I’ve gotten old or the roads have got more dangerous but it feels kinda scary these days to be out on a bike. I do love driving though – from the earliest age I had a fascination with cars and lorries and coaches and had this childhood ambition of owning a yard with a whole line up of vehicles to choose from. I kinda made that dream come true and we now own between us a 1944 Scammell Pioneer, an ERF B-series Showman’s Haulage lorry, two Discoveries, a Land Rover Defender – oh and a 1980 Ford Fiesta. Luckily I’m good with the spanners – if I couldn’t fix em we couldn’t run them!
• Describe your style:
Since embracing a transgender identity I have more freedom to express my true self in my clothing. We all communicate a message about ourselves through the clothes we choose and for me, for a long time that inner self was repressed and hidden and as a result I generally had no interest in clothes. Now I can enjoy shopping and fashion, trying ideas out seeing what works. A part of the mission is to find aesthetically pleasing ways to ‘do transgender’. Defining that style is tricky – I’m breaking new ground. Mostly I communicate elements of both male and female – I don’t attempt to ‘pass as a woman’, what I endeavour to do is find stylish and aesthetically pleasing ways to present femaleness on a male frame. I took inspiration from Eddie Izzard who made the point that he also ‘wouldn’t pass’ so his stylist worked to find looks that would work for him: I’m on a similar mission I guess.
• Tell us about the outfit you’re wearing in the picture. What does it
say about you? Where did you find the things you’re wearing?
I was in playful mood that day and although I’d brought ‘sensible’ stuff for the shoot we kinda ended up going with playful. I love my Hello-Kitty earrings – they are cute and slightly ironic so if I’m wearing them I’m clearly in a mischievous mood. My scarf came from Accessorise and was one of those lucky finds when you just see something and know its right. I love everything about it – the colour, the fabric, the texture. My skirt was a charity shop find – I like to up-cycle and re-use stuff and I like the ethic of supporting a charity and making our modern obsession of disposable fashion less disposable by giving it a second use. Charity shop finds also give me a chance to experiment with looks and ideas in a cost effective way. I bought that one because it was pretty and it fits – and it’s kinda cute too. My boots are proper UGGS – it felt like an outrageous amount to spend on footwear but they are so comfortable and so lush they were a must have. My jewellery comes mostly from places like Camden market – I’m big on silver jewellery and I like individual pieces that are more about visual aesthetic and style rather than cost. Two of the rings I’m wearing came from chopping up an old vintage brooch -another bit of up-cycling. My eye make-up is also an important part of my look – I love the smoky eye effect and it makes me happy when I get it right.
• What is your guiltiest weekend pleasure?
One of my few relaxations is to have a bath. Even when I lived on a boat I made sure I had a bath in it: that’s how important it is. Our bathroom now is really lush – it even has an open fireplace so I’ll set a fire in the grate, light the candles and my old tilly lamp, dim the bulb in the chandelier and run a deep bath with really posh bubbles. A glass of Islay malt whisky and some dark chocolate and I’m well sorted. Do not disturb!