Library Refit Shenanigans

One of the libraries that I manage is having a much-delayed refit and redecoration this month. As a result my working days have been a little more varied this month.

If I haven’t been scurrying from place to place sorting out appraisals or getting a headstart on next month’s timetables, then I’ve been walking on rooftops inspecting drainage channels, watching workmen dodge flying books, and debating exactly when to tell someone his shelves aren’t straight.

It’s been that kind of month. On the plus side, the library has a new paint scheme and carpets, and a whole new layout that I think is going to draw people in.

We’re planning STEM events for the reopening, along with the more traditional Rhymetime and Story Time, and several staff have been pressed into service to wear an incredible penguin costume while leafletting.

Roll on this coming Saturday

Strength and Presence

I should warn you, there’s a bit of navel gazing in this post, and I’m not sure where it’s going other than its partially inspired by recent conversations and a (very NSFW) blog by my girlfriend, Lady S.

Lady M recently commented that I was quite a dominant and commanding personality while I was venting about how the term “alpha male” irritates me. It’s generally used to excuse boorish and aggressive behaviour. It’s something of a pet peeve, especially when attached to a blokey set of micro and not-so-micro aggressions in social environments.

Lady M smiled and said it was likely because, being how I am, I push back at anyone assuming an authority over me. That’s as much a reaction to the institutions I grew up in and past trauma as anything else.

In my usual way of drawing threads together, this observation matched and complemented one by Lady S, who has said that she perceives my being a Dom as about who I am rather than it being something I do.

I’ve certainly remarked in therapy over the years that there does seem to be a pattern of my taking charge in situations, or of having people seem to look to me for advice. Maybe that’s just because I’m not afraid to make decisions and make things up as I go along: I’m a great believer in following my gut instincts in snap decisions.

So perhaps it isn’t so surprising to find that being a Dom to Lady S is something that has come quite easily as we’ve talked and explored boundaries and expectations. It’s an interesting journey that I hadn’t expected, but is proving intriguing and a huge boost for my self confidence. Perhaps all that examination of my shadow side in therapy has been more productive than anticipated.


I heard an interesting question today – about why people talk about their sexuality or non-traditional relationship models when they are in monogamous and ostensibly heterosexual relationships. Was it their speaking up a way of saying “I’m available?”

From personal experience: no. Not even slightly. It’s about being seen, and heard, and perhaps a sign of encouragement and support for people who are themselves struggling with the fear that they are the only people who feel the way they do.

Representation is important. Not everyone is in a safe place socially or geographically to be open about who they are or how they love – so it’s even more important that we can be as visible as practicable to fly a rallying flag for people.

So that’s why I am open about being bisexual, polyamorous, and a Dom – I rarely shout about it, but if it gives confidence or support to someone to hear someone being able to say it, then it does some good.

Just Cuddle Things

The importance and intimacy of cuddling is something that I can go on about at great length. There’s been research about how it stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is linked to boosting the immune system, bonding emotionally to others, and just generally feeling good about your place in the universe.

All I know is that a hug feels good, reduces stress, and is a wonderful way to affirm welcome, support, acceptance, and love.

We cuddle a lot in this household – we’re tactile people because it feels good, and sometimes just as a touchstone of “we’re here” – and it’s led to a little ritual here if one of us is getting up before the other where we put a pillow in our place to cuddle.

Without fail, I or Lady M will snuggle into that pillow, even if we’re asleep or just in that shallow almost sleep as we’ve felt the other moving. It is just the cutest thing to see – and that’s the emotional reward for whichever of us just got up: seeing a contented smile and a cuddle as we head out to work.

Experimenting with Props

I started using the discarded card inners of wrapping paper to make a cosplay prop recently. I have some vague idea of making a Wizard’s Staff, possibly with a knob on the end – so it needs to be reasonably solid but not actually usable to hurt anyone.

I was inspired by the fun I’ve had making wands, so the approach I took was to roll several layers, secured by tape and nest them like a lamination, with outer layers then smoothing the texture out a bit.

I’ve got it to about six foot, and started painting it black to prime it and see what the tape looked like in terms of surface change – and all seemed to be going reasonably well when I spotted a weakness about two thirds up. It meant that while the rest of it was sturdy enough, it would likely snap if the top hit something in transit – fortunately there was a thicker card tube to hand that had a smaller radius than the staff.

It took a bit of swearing and surgery with scissors to cut through painted tape, but I managed to access the hollow core and insert the tube deep enough to reinforce from the inside.

Moral of the story, thicker card on the inside of props, and don’t underestimate toilet roll tubes…

Back To Work

Adjusting back to working after three weeks off has been made slightly easier by the fact that my scheduled work place is closed for renovations this month. I’m not overseeing any of the actual decoration or remedial work, but I have been trying to find things for people to do.

Without fail, each member of staff has said that at first they were looking forward to a quiet month, but a week of stock moves followed by a week of not a lot has left them each eager to go work in other libraries so they have something to do.

I’ve at least managed to catch up on a chunk of paperwork, but somehow I feel even more tired than usual – and I can’t work out if that is to do with the break, or the change in nature of the work.

T-Shirts and Theme Parks

While I was out in Florida I was complimented on my t-shirts a few times, and each time it threw me for a few moments. I don’t know if it’s a Floridian thing or a Disney thing, or a wider Stateside habit. It certainly isn’t very common over here in the UK, outside of online geeky hastags, to compliment people’s geek references.

To put it another way, a friend might comment when meeting down the bar or unexpectedly while out and about. It might even be used as a chat-up line. What would be very odd, and a little threatening, would be a random person in the street doing so.

Not so in the Disney Parks while I was there. I’m inclined to think it came from the same sense of social inclusion that comes from #geektshirtfriday or members of the same social club or group of sports fans.

In Disney Parks there is an assumption of a certain holiday spirit or club inclusion just by being onsite. You see it once people are past the turnstiles – a certain relaxation of shoulders, a slowing of pace, the widening of smiles. It does seem to put people in a more familiar frame of mind for the most part – where little kindnesses to strangers come more easily for example.

While my t-shirts were not Disney themed, they did point to a certain fantasy/sci-fi flavour (a Lego spaceman logo, a UKCC MCM Comiccon logo, and a technical diagram of an X-Wing Starfighter) that prompts the tribal familiarity that seems to lead to unprompted comments about clothing as a point of similarity.

A slightly odd variant on that was something I noticed a couple of times in the parks where what seemed to be geeky t-shirts like superman logos were then subverted with religious references – for example small ‘je’ and ‘us’ either side of the superman logo to form the word jeSus. I saw enough of them to think that there had either been a summer Bible camp or local church flirting with copyright violations recently.

I’m still not sure what to make of it – there feels a deceitful element and breach of the geeky social contract, but maybe I’m overthinking it. I do know I didn’t hear anyone complimenting them.

So Many Photos

We may have gone a bit mad on photos while we were away at Disney – and even trying to curate a small number for a slideshow here has been a challenge – so I may do some themed ones along the way.

We invested in a Photopass too, so that the various photographers around the parks, as well as the character meets and rides could all be easily collated and downloaded at our leisure.

So on top of the hundreds of photos taken between us there was another treasure trove of memories to recover – which include some truly amazing facial expressions as we were caught off guard. Disney magic covers a range of emotions, and these photos illustrate it well.

The two biggest extremes both come from Lady M. The first was in a character encounter with Kylo Ren – and she was rendered literally speechless. She looked terrified as we were ushered by Imperial operatives into his presence, and she was abruptly interrogated by the tall dark hooded character.

She said later that it had been unnerving, even knowing it was an actor, to come face to face with the mask, abrupt body language and tone of voice. As an evocation of the character it worked amazingly, and has left a lasting impression she gladly talks about – a true emotional thrill ride if you like.

The second came when we dined at Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom one evening. During the day, it is Belle who holds court there, but the evenings belong to the Master (Beast) – and so once we had eaten our main course, Lady M went to his study to meet him.

Now, Lady M’s maiden name was Potts, so the film and characters have a special resonance for her as they recall her mother. As she told the Master this, there was a jolt of surprise. He looked to the ex-Lady M for confirmation, and then spread his arms wide to gather her in an expansive hug.

With so much floating around – the ambience, music, location, thoughts of her mum – Lady M cried, and the Beast held her, and wouldn’t let her go until she was recovered. It was totally off-script, and apparently confused the helpers who hadn’t heard the exchange – but this too has been a lasting memory that she will always cherish.

Disney magic, caught on camera.

Plot Twist!

Oh, so as I was catching up on Facebook, not long before getting ready to get on a plane to come home from Florida, my eye was caught by a post by someone in one of the cosplay groups about how they were ready to start dating again after heartbreak a year or so before.

This particular group is one that I met up with at MCM in October: SquadUK, and I’d gone to their visit to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park – so I knew and had met most of the people in the conversation thread – a luxury you don’t often get online when you’re trying to visualise a virtual discussion.

Although the poster, Lady S, is open on her bio and in conversations, if it comes up, about being poly, it was quickly obvious that this was either something that had flown straight past people, or that had been discounted because she had recently got engaged to her girlfriend. A number of people began to ask what had gone wrong, and she had to explain that no, this wasn’t a break-up. She clearly explained her boundaries: basically that any new partner had be to public, no skulking around, and willing to attend conventions. Any longer debate was turned aside with a “I’m not debating this, if you don’t understand, you won’t.”

Which I had to admire. I also found it refreshing to see someone stand up in a public forum, and wanting to even the odds a bit also weighed in to support her in poly representation. I also said if she wanted to natter about poly things, I was there as an understanding ear.

So as I leaned on the balcony at the hotel, I got a message saying “Well at least I feel less guilty for perving over you.” and we started chatting. As you do. Meanwhile on the Facebook discussion, her fiance was reassuring everyone that she would have the head of anyone who hurt Lady S on a spike.

And between that and her chatting with Lady M, and not sleeping through jetlag, we seem to have ended up with a new partner – which was a rather unexpected way to ring in the new year.

Turns out she’d been carrying a quiet torch for me since the Winter Wonderland and I was, as usual, completely oblivious. So I’m not quite sure out of all the social anxieties and shyness quite who pulled who.

It’s a lovely way to start the new year though. Feels right, lots of smiles in both households right now.

Language Observations

A bit of a whimsical set of thoughts this time on something we noticed while out in Florida. I thought at first that it was merely to do with being at Disney, but I observed it away from the resorts as well: that the Americans we met seemed to be censoring their own swearing.

I always though it was a feature of television shows that people cut off phrase or substituted words – certainly we stood out as moderately sweary Brits, even if the people around us didn’t quite understand what we were saying, and that we tried not to actually mentally scar any children.

But no, a man who got water down his neck resorted to “sonofa-” and I heard any number of variations of “holy moly”, “darn it”, “gosh”, and even “heck”.

Were all these people starring in their own shows, as we all are prone to believe? There didn’t seem to be any forcing of language or phrases, as I might expect of someone trying to change the sentence mid-flow.

It did make me appreciate just how sweary British daily life is that I’m more taken aback by a lack of swearing than its presence. But hey, I work with the public, so make of that what you will.