MCM Comiccon

We’re back now from MCM London Comiccon, and aside from the exhaustion of being in our feet for most of the last 96 hours or so we’re still buzzing.

The last few times we’ve been there, we didn’t really know many people; so on our single day excursions we tended to run around like mad things.

There are usually four main areas covering merchandise, films, computer games, and comics – and a lively cosplay community. As our introduction to MCM came through Lady P, we’ve usually gone in costume but never really felt a huge part of the community.

This year we got Priority Weekend Passes so we didn’t feel the need to rush. More importantly, we’d been engaging online with a number of groups on social media who we knew would be arranging meets during the weekend.

The UK Cosplay Community group, Squad UK, and Marvel and DC United all looked positive and proved fun and engaging. Lady M led the charge, and as we got nearer to the day, I joined them.

They each had mass photoshoots arranged for each day, which was the initial draw. Then, as if we weren’t already going to be busy, Lady M started booking individual sessions with photographers to give us a more structured day. I have to admit that I did grumble that it was starting to feel more like a working weekend than a holiday.

We posted elements of our designs and pictures of the costumes as works in progress, and as we got to know people we felt more comfortable anticipating the weekend.

We were not disappointed. We soon ran into names and faces we recognised, and were very pleasantly surprised to find that the people behind the Facebook identities were even warmer and more supportive in person.

Cosplayers and photographers alike actively sought out Lady M under her persona as Mothermafiacosplay – based on those prototypes – and the boost to both our confidence just can’t be understated. Big grins were soon fixed on our faces.

Even better, we very quickly realised that no one was doing characters or interpretations of characters quite like us. Lady M’s roster included an elegant Victorian Poison Ivy, Baby Groot, and Mrs Potts – the animated teapot from Beauty and the Beast. Mine included a dark wizard escaped from Azkaban, a gender-bent Harley Quinn, and the philosopher/martial artist Inhuman known as Karnak.

In between photo shoots, we wandered the exhibits and bought souvenirs, but we kept being drawn back to mingle with this welcoming, positive and supportive group of people who never failed to make us smile – either by words, actions, or just general humour and shenanigans.

Whether general members, or personable group administrators, we were treated like old friends rather than strangers known only online. Each group has a strong anti-bullying ethos, battling poor behaviour and snobbery at every opportunity. It was a large part of what had drawn us to them.

People of all ages, whole families even, were united in having fun and displaying their love of pop culture heroes and villains. No matter how popular or obscure the characters – how complex or simple the costumes and props were – people were admiring each other’s work and passion.

It was, and is, truly inspiring.

The weekend passed in a blur, punctuated with quiet moments back at the Sunborn Hotel – the yacht parked next to the Excel Centre – where we enjoyed convivial gins while younger and more boisterous convention-goers ran riot. Well, relatively boisterous – as far as I know, the police were only called once to The Fox – the local hub of after-hours debauchery.

Even better, the proximity of the yacht meant that we didn’t get overloaded with bags of loot, and so we could stay focused on socialising and playing.

Monday came, and we made our way home. Exhausted, foot-sore, slightly muddle-headed, and above all wanting to get on with preparing for the next one.

That said, I’m really very pleased that we both have this week off to recover.

How Lucky Am I?

I suppose we’ve all done it at some point: laid alongside a partner at night, not yet sleepy while they’re dead to the world, and looked at them to just feel a sense of amazement and happiness that they’re there.

I know I have, at least, with each partner at some point – and I think it is equal parts joy, comfort, and sheer disbelief on each occasion – the latter stemming from my own insecurities. And that’s how I know that these moments are universal.

There’s a sermon my father often gives at weddings where he talks about how each of us looks at our partners and thinks they see the worst parts that we know about ourselves in our halves, which is part of why we feel so lucky when someone wants to spend their time with us.

It rings true with everyone there, I’ve seen people of all ages nodding along as he tells us to hold on to that wonder and awe about our partners. And by extension it’s how I know that as much as I can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to fall asleep with Lady M, that when she says the same that it is also true, and coming from the same place.

It is something I treasure, and feel renewed by every time I notice it.

MCM Preparations

We’re now in the final week before MCM Comiccon at the Excel Centre. Our hotel was booked some time ago, our costumes are… mostly ready, and we’ve been chatting online with and getting to know people in the UK Cosplay Community so we don’t feel complete numpties while we’re there.

Lady M has been focusing on making costume elements in between crippling migraines, and I’ve assembled and painted a number of props for us both. What, as the saying goes, is the worst that could happen?

We will of course be exercising self care to manage our respective anxieties and conditions – and we’re determined to be as social as we can. So, if you happen to be there and spot Karnak and Baby Groot, a Steampunk Poison Ivy and gender-bent Harley Quinn, or Mrs Potts the teapot and a Deatheater on the run from Azkaban then come on over and say hi!

Be warned: Lady M may giggle a lot – this may in fact be an incentive for some of you.

Short Fiction: The Briefing

Larellon looked up when the shadow of the new arrival crossed the threshold of his bivouac. He completed the pass of the whetstone along the edge of his hunting blade before speaking however.

“Rest a while if you please, or pass along if you will. I am Larellon of the Windsigh Rovers.”

“Hi!” Came the cheery response. The Moon Elf sighed and put his tools down.

“Good morning Cathedrin, what are you after?” Larellon disguised his irritation with the Summer Elf and reached for a bottle of spirits in the open pack beside him.

“Morning Larellon! I’m off to see Blind Betty up in the caves; I’m already late and the heavies she sent said she was threatening to cut bits of me off if I didn’t go right now, so I was wandering along and got distracted by a tentacle beast in the pond out the back of that old log shaped like a crocodile – and fun though that was for a while I did think I’d rather not lose anything I might miss later -”

“Do you ever breathe, Cathedrin?” He interrupted her characteristic babbling. Like many of her type, Cathedrin was flighty in mind, mannerism, and concentration. Some found it endearing, at least until she’d relieved them of their wallet, possessions, or will to live.

“Hmm? Oh yes.” She grinned. “Anyway I was just wondering – I’ve never met her before, and I know you’re through here on patrol quite often, which -” she stopped as Larellon raised an eyebrow. “Right, yes, anyway – what’s she like?”

Larellon considered the question a moment and chose his words carefully.

“She’s okay, for a human, not someone who likes being kept waiting, probably not someone you want to annoy.”

“Oh, okay! Thanks then! See you in a bit, though don’t think I haven’t seen that bottle of – no, okay, on the way back then, my that’s a shiny knife!”

Larellon refrained from rolling his eyes, and instead went back to preparing his blades for use. His own briefing with Blind Betty had been productive.

After some time, he heard the whisper-scuffle of Cathedrin’s hurried return.

“I thought you said she was human!”

“She is.”

“No she isn’t, she’s got at least six arms and I think she had fangs! She threw a knife at me!”

“Hmm. I thought she was human. She’s not an elf anyway. Did she give you a job?”

“Yes! And you knew about it already! I’m to come with you and steal something called a Star Tear. She threatened to cut my ear tips off!”

“Well she did ask for you a year ago. So, are you ready? I’ve got your bag ready, and some spare candy.”

“Yay! This is going to be the best!”

Odd Questions

One of the things that simultaneously delights and bemuses me about library work is the sheer scope of questions that my colleagues and I get asked in any given day.

Most, admittedly, are around whether we have the latest blockbuster novel, or book discussed on Radio 4 about some minutiae of historical events or technology. Just as many revolve around helping people apply for bus passes, or pointing them in the direction of various support services in the local area.

Then we get the unusual ones – which I have to say I do enjoy because they make me think and get creative.

On Thursday I had a gentleman trying to find house prices for a particular property in the local area back in 1989. Today I had a gentleman ask for a copy of an obscure Gnostic Gospel that apparently referenced and gave guidance on Brexit.

I was able to find answers to both questions – so two more happy customers (for a given value of “happy”)

So if you are ever trying to find something out, don’t be afraid to ask your local librarian. We like weird and unusual questions…

Inktober Shenanigans

I seem to have been drafted into taking part in this year’s Inktober – a challenge to draw and post a picture every day.

But wait, I hear you say – only one picture? Who are you kidding? It’s getting to stop drawing that’s usually the challenge.

All true, which is why I sound a little bemused, because I usually throw away 80 percent of my doodles, or evolve them into ever-larger canvasses in sketch books so it’s harder to note what’s been done on any given day.

So what I’m trying to do is use the daily prompts to force me out of my comfort zone of drawing grotesques and snarling demons. I’m posting things mostly to my Instagram account, which advertises to Twitter as well, and thence to Facebook.

It’s an intriguing exercise, and one I’m glad I’ve taken on.

Bi the Bi Positivity

A couple of weeks ago you might have noticed an uptick in bisexual awareness and visibility as we had a month of throwing off invisibility cloaks and generally politely reminding people that we exist.

If you didn’t that’s okay, we’re used to being erased and ignored in general conversation and pop culture from both sides of the Kinsey Scale. For my part I began a small experiment, and I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far.

I’ve only recently started adding pins to my work lanyard, just to brighten things up, so thought I’d take the plunge and add a bisexuality badge to the mix – just to see what the reaction would be. Yes, there was a degree of mischievousness to it, but it was more prompted by sights and sounds of others standing up.

There was, of course, no grand reaction and certainly no negativity from any of the staff or customers. If anything I had the opposite.

The amount of smiles and softened expressions on a daily basis, from people from all walks and gender identities has been truly heartening. It’s been a great boost at a time when I’m struggling with moods and anxieties.

I’ve had big burly angry customers chill out, stressed mothers and surly teenagers slow down and hear me out, and generally felt my workplace environment feel happier than I’ve noted in a while.

Now, I’m not naive enough to put this down to a button and other people’s attitudes to the exclusion of all else. As I’ve felt more relaxed and certain I’ve no doubt presented a calmer and more, dare I say managerial, face to the world. My physical presence is somewhat solid and liable to block out the sun too – which combines with a close shaved head and calloused knuckles to reportedly be quite intimidating on occasion.

Whether it’s the button helping to soften that image, my own changed demeanor, general amusement by onlookers, or some other combination, my experience of being Out at work has been more positive than I expected – and that’s worth celebrating even now Bisexuality Awareness Month is over.

World Mental Health Day

It was World Mental Health Day yesterday and I didn’t mark it, appropriately enough, because my own mental health got in the way.

While some might question the need for a day to be set aside when we should be concerned with something that will affect everyone at some point in their life – directly or indirectly – the additional spotlight can do no harm in reducing the stigma and in raising awareness.

I don’t have the capacity at the moment to talk about where I am on my own meandering journey through clinical depression, PTSD, and of course that old friend anxiety. I do know that I would not be in the comparatively functional state that I am without the support and forebearance of family, friends, colleagues, and medical professionals over the years. They’ve all helped when the black dog has been barking loudly.

Wrapping up, and to illustrate how big the issue is, I was working somewhere recently and taking a break when the conversation turned to the various pills and potions we need to take. Every person in that room was taking antidepressants regularly.

It somehow made us all a little more relaxed to feel comfortable enough to share that in that moment. That’s why we need World Mental Health Day.

A Moment

The whirr of coffee grinding, the hiss of steam. The clink of cups and saucers is a counterpoint to the bland music being played at hearing threshold, which itself just underlies the chatter of customers. It’s a strangely timeless moment that feels like it could stretch on and on in defiance of the world passing by outside the window.

I’m content, here and now, and that’s okay.

Fun and Games

The return of the Charleesi had to include both a visit to The Plough and the playing of games, and it made for a lovely relaxing afternoon, evening, and night.

A few drinks in and food inside us, we started to play Rock Paper Wizard – which combines hand gestures and tactic voting with Dungeons & Dragons spells. The backstory is that the players are powerful wizards who have slain a dragon and now stand in front of its hoard – and who then turn on each other to grab the biggest share.

Each round lays out spells to choose and you decide who you will play it on. Each card will either move pieces nearer to or further away from the board, or redistribute the gold coins that each player amasses. At the end of each round, the nearest players to the coins grabs an amount each. When all the coins have been claimed, the person with the most in their hand wins.

It’s a lovely visual game and can be very gently paced, or fast and furious. It also attracted comment and interest from other people in the pub; and the laughter from our corner table soon filled the whole bar.

Our second game, back from the bar, was Temp Worker Assassins – a deck building and piece placing game where you try to assassinate various supernatural corporate beings through the work week. Well-fuelled with alcohol, we played and laughed, and quibbled over rule interpretation – we will definitely be making it a regular centrepiece of evenings I think.

We got home late, but so worth it – Lady M hates being sociable, but she’ll always make an exception for games with the Charleesi.