Ghosts of the Past


A few years back, I was extremely ill with a deep depression that had everyone very worried about me. My GP had me on very high doses of antidepressants, and a cocktail of mood stabilisers, and to be honest I really don’t remember a lot of it very clearly. I think I only really appreciated the effect they had on me as the dosage was reduced and someone said it was lovely to see the colour and brightness back in my face.

Today I was working with someone whose own medications have just been sharply increased, ostensibly to help her subdue her demons. It has been hard to see, and I have to put my hand up to say that in part that difficulty is from seeing the effects from the outside.

I know I can’t solve their problems, and I have a greater appreciation because of that of the people who stuck by me, put up with me, or even just ran a mile. What I can do is be supportive, and hope to be there as well as those who were there for me.

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Dobby’s Job

My daughter, the formidable Charleesi, sent me a text this afternoon. In it she announced that Dobby had been given a job. This wasn’t a reference to the story today that visitors to the Harry Potter Experience in Watford have been trying to rescue the model of Dobby from the Studio, usually by giving it their socks. Instead it was confirmation that she had just been successful in getting her first Saturday job.

She will be working in a library, just like her parents. Very sensibly, it will be in a different borough to either of us, and she didn’t mention either of our jobs when she was being interviewed. That latter decision was because she didn’t want anyone thinking she was being pushed into applying.

Anyone who knows the Charleesi will recognise that she is not someone easily pushed into anything, but she didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

I’m very proud of her, and have of course warned her that we will turn up at some point and wave socks at her.

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Are You A Priest?

This is the question that was fired at me without warning this afternoon. It came from a child of around six or seven years, who peered at me around the corner of the desk. We were in the library, and I was sorting something out for his uncle. The child’s siblings were running merry havoc around the building – mostly dismantling displays – and I have to admit I was contemplating trying for a field goal with one of the little treasures at that point. I was just fondly imagining drop kicking one of the bundles of joys when the quiet question was posed.

It flummoxed me a little, I suspect it would make most of you at least pause a half second while your brain devoted a quick boost of concentration while it processed the question (I’m not including any of you who may, actually, be priests in this supposition). I blinked, and said “no”.


“You look familiar, are you sure?” he replied. I told him I live nearby and he’s probably seen me in the shops, but I was sure I wasn’t a priest. He didn’t look convinced.

In the back of my mind, the immortal words from Ghostbusters started to reel out: “If someone asks you if you’re a god, you say YES” and wondered if there was about to be an explosion beyond the sound of falling books from the next aisle, where his baby brother was trying to climb the shelves. There was no explosion. His puzzled face remained; and then his uncle apologised and dragged him away in the direction of the Children’s Library.

I wasn’t even wearing black today! Those who know me will recognise this as highly unusual, and I’m sorry if I’ve shattered the illusion that I wear nothing but deepest sable, cloaking myself in shadow. It just felt like a day for blues and greys. Must have been the bright autumn sunshine when I got up this morning or something. I’m sure it’s just a phase.

I’d like to think it was some incipient awareness in the child of the sacred nature of books and learning, and my role in their preservation, promotion and sharing their importance that prompted the question, but the context of the encounter suggests otherwise. Perhaps his household religion is one where only priests have beards – or in my case a sort of half-hearted goatee and associated scruff – and that’s what caused the concern. Maybe he thought I was about to lecture him from holy scripture about how he should respect the library and behave with due care and attention to those about him. That might explain the look of wide-eyed fear and awe.

Either that, or my secret desire to pick him up and tryto kick him straight across six lanes of traffic was a lot less subtle than I believed. I wish I had started channelling Hunter S Thompson and launched in to a long inventive diatribe laced with venom, vision, and violently obscure imagery to scorch the eyeballs… but sadly I was too bemused and disarmed.

Perhaps next time, I shall say yes, and see what happens.

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Round The Houses


The last forty eight hours have been a gloriously chaotic experience that has seen me cruising motorways to the sound of Orbital; sitting in a Children’s Library voting on the 2016 Carnegie and Greenaway Awards; and arguing politely with doctors in the local A&E department. That doesn’t even include networking with librarians, breakfast conversations with my best friend’s daughter, career advice from an author, or patching up aching hearts.

I’d travelled down to the outskirts of Brighton on Sunday night so I could be relatively fresh for a CILIP event in the Jubilee Library. Librarians and Library Staff (yes, there’s a difference) from the South East of England were meeting to discuss and vote together the candidates for next year’s Carnegie and Greenaway Awards, epitomising the best in children’s fiction and illustration. Whichever way you cut it, this is a big deal, and very cool. I am very proud of having been able to take part in this process.

It was a good distraction from quite a severe mood dip that was partly fuelled by Lady M being unwell. When I got home and found she had spent a good portion of the day in the local A&E and was still in distress, the worry came flooding straight back. They’d discharged her without being sure what was causing her constant pain and things were not getting better. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest, despite her saying she would have to see the GP in the morning, so I took her back.

We spent seven hours in A&E (that’s the ER for my US readers), and got home at about half five this morning. Lady M is recovering, so there’s a positive result, and we’ve been sleeping most of today to make up the sleep debt. We also had a visitation from Lady P, whose own illness has led her to do some dumb things recently. A quiet evening of tears, Netflix, and a hastily cooked meal followed.

And so, back to bed, and the hope that some relative normality will soon return. Well, normal for us anyway…

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There’s This Week Gone?

Not working on Monday has totally thrown my sense of where I am in the week out the window. I’ll get used to it, but the rearrangement of library hours seems to have thrown my planning out. As a result it feels like I’m chasing my own tail a bit.


It doesn’t help that I’m feeling a bit under the weather. There’s a stomach bug doing the rounds, and even my cast iron stomach seems to be twitchy. I’m hoping that it doesn’t develop into anything, especially as I have Rhymetime tomorrow. I somehow doubt that my popularity as a singer will survive my trampling toddlers in an emergency rush to the loo, let alone the alternative!

Still, much to look forward to this weekend. We’ll be at the Wessex Pistols album launch on Friday, and the Charleesi is staying over too, which is always a pleasure. Then I’m in Brighton on Monday for a CILIP Carnegie event, so friends have offered to put me up for the Sunday night so I don’t have to battle commuter traffic.

I suspect I’ll need to cancel the upcoming Monday game, thinking about the timings. That’s a pain, but on the plus side Lady P returns from another con on Monday, so fingers crossed our schedules allow a catch-up. We’ve had a fairly fraught few weeks between us all, but things seem to be settling down again, so definitely looking forward to opening some wine up soon. We may even see her return to the pub on a Tuesday soon: stranger things have been known.

Speaking of which, we’ve just started saying “Tuesdays” as a catch-all response to shenanigans on our nights down The Plough. It saves trying to explain certain jokes and references to cheese and Disney songs to the resident musicians. The respective Ladies M, and Lady G are certainly getting a bit of a hellraising reputation.

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New Rotas

Another week, another Monday – oh, wait, now this is new: my library rotas have changed. Mondays are the new Wednesday and I’ve suddenly had the equivalent of a weekend, even with working on a Saturday. How very civilised…

Speaking of civilised, we even did semi-domesticated things this weekend, such as getting colour swatches for a potential repaint and decorate in the flat, and meeting friends for Sunday lunch. We even took our life in our hands and went to a pub in Twickenham during the opening weekend if the rugby World Cup. Admittedly it was the other end of Twickenham from the stadium, so was hardly overrun, but it sounded impressive and/or foolhardy for a moment, didn’t it?

It’s up there with announcing you know the lyrics to Duelling Banjos while it’s being performed; something we did the other week while down The Plough, and then went ahead and sang them. It nearly made the musicians crack up laughing, so was totally worth it.

So, a new week, new patterns, hopefully better news for those we know who have things to cope with, and hopefully better health all round. With any luck I’ll manage to stave off the worst of the grimness with humour and irreverence.

Oh, those lyrics? “Two pints of lager, and a packet of crisps!”

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I Read Your Blog

If there’s a phrase that puts me on edge these days, its someone that I’m talking with face to face suddenly saying: “I read your blog.” There’s often a pause straight after. There’s usually a slightly guilty look on their face at the time, because they’re about to ask a question about some of the more personal information that I’ve posted here.


Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code

Sometimes there’s a carefully neutral expression, akin to the one I used to wear as an IT Systems Administrator when in conversation with someone while I was wearing my “I read your email” t-shirt. It can feel that either phrase can be an implicit threat at the same time as a helpful acknowledgement. It is often not until we get to the next sentence that it becomes apparent which way the conversation is going.

These days it’s usually one of three topics: my gaming write up pages, my mental health posts, or allusions to my love life. Well, there’s also one person who picks me up on the WordPress app’s ability to “autocorrect” my apostrophe usage to interesting effect occasionally (looking at you here, Lady G).

In each case I’m usually doing a lightning fast fight or flight calculation. This often manifests as my responding with an “oh yes?”, or possibly a more drawn out “yeeeesssssss?” if there’s something in the tone of the original comment that rings mental alarm bells. More often than not, the next sentence is generally supportive, or picks out a turn of phrase that has put a grin on their face.

These last ones are, admittedly, some of the nicest conversations. That’s because I get to see someone’s joy as provoked by my writing. That’s a huge ego boost, and particularly helps if I’m having a doldrums day. (Sir S was the most recent of these, telling me of the sheer joy he got from recognising himself in the blog – there’s always one :P )

To date, the other topics have either prompted grimly supportive statements like “you know you can talk to me about anything”, or semi incoherent reassurances along the lines of “if you’re happy, we don’t give a flying f**k”. I await with interest the day someone tells me, to my face, to lighten the hell up – and engages in a long and in-depth discussion without a look of terror or utter confusion on their face.

Well, there’s one Dangerous person who does, but he’s usually very, very drunk at the time and shows no subsequent sign of recalling the conversations afterwards. This may be a blessing in disguise.

I wonder how many other bloggers encounter this. Many people blog under an assumed name or title of course, but there are many who, like me, blog under their own name. Is this sense of trepidation when talking directly to your audience just a figment of my overactive imagination, or something we all struggle with (even if only briefly?) What approaches do you adopt when the virtual and real worlds coincide?

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