Writing Nice Things

One of my colleagues has been working for the library for some 25 years now, and it’s always good to mark these things. My boss was nudged to write nice things to celebrate this and so this morning I received a plea for help in composing it. The email was titled: “R Citation”

The original call was for reminiscences but being the garrulous soul I am, I ended up with the following (slightly edited to preserve identities):

I must have been talking to too many Americans as the first thought on seeing ‘R Citation’ in the Subject was to wonder what she’d done now…

First impressions of R were of someone watchful and no nonsense – and then I got to know her and the sheer dryness of her humour was a joy. If we were busy we were given time and space to just get on with it – and if we weren’t then things could be found.

These days when asked to quickly describe R I use words and phrases like “bundle of energy”, “leaping into action”, and “don’t leave old paperwork around or it’ll go in the bin”. R is passionate about her work and about the library service. Watching her work is a lesson in managing to sprint along the tightrope between maintaining strict boundaries with the public, and going above and beyond the extra mile in pursuit of customer care. R’s distinctive voice and genuine interest in the people around her make her truly memorable to the people she meets and works with. Perhaps that’s the key to summing up R: she cares.

R has always been a kind and intuitive listener, even if – as she’ll be the first to tell you – she doesn’t always use the right words. I am now well used to phone-calls asking me to check over draft emails; asked to help turn direct and unvarnished language into considered and not-quite-so inflammatory directives. One of these days I’m sure she will produce some of the original drafts of her emails while writing her memoirs, and we can look forward to the series of explosions across the land.

R’s dedication to fitness is legendary, with swimming, running, and bottles of wine all being regular conquests in the race to keep ahead of the demands of work, family, and escape attempts by family pets. The sight of her bike propped up in Staines Library’s back rooms or corridors has often brought a smile when considering the pile of parcels delivered from Amazon that will then need to be carefully balanced on the return journey.

Perhaps the greatest testament to R is that when you mention her name, people’s faces light up. That’s a rare gift.

So, unsurprisingly my boss has said she’ll probably just use what I wrote. Perhaps I should send a mock invoice.

Three Years

It’s been a strange journey of ups and downs in health and oddities, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Its been three years since myr s accepted a collar from me, and cemented a place in our collective lives.

Despite the best efforts of covid-19, lockdown, and the general vagaries of life we’ve kept a strong if sometimes frustrated bond – the joys of living in separate cities and all that.

The collar is a mark of trust and partnership, not unlike a wedding band, but a little less subtle in its symbolism. Since the first chain mail one, I’ve since bought a more masculine one for them as their gender identity has evolved. There have so been some more casual ones for comfort or blending in.

I was vaccinated yesterday, another sign that we seem collectively to be moving towards all being able to see each other again. I love myr s deeply, and cannot wait.

Celebration

It was Lady M’s birthday yesterday, so we made the most of it. She had a small mound of presents and cards to enjoy before we jumped in the car and sped down the way to Portsmouth for breakfast with myr s and Lady B, and a wander round the shops.

When we got back there were flowers and chocolates from the Charleesi, her boyfriend, and the ex-Mrs M, and we just settled into a quiet evening.

With lockdown looming, it felt like a last-ditch effort to get to see everyone and was much needed: Lady M got to be surrounded by loved ones while friends on social media made her timelines explode with good wishes.

Happy Birthday myr s

Its grey and overcast here, but it’s myr s’ 29th birthday so our support bubble/polycule chat is full of good wishes and positivity, so that’s no bad thing.

They’ve chosen today to launch a GoFundMe to try and raise money to begin transitioning under private medical care and support. NHS wait times are around three years before even starting support, so anything that can be done to help is worth a go. If you’re feeling so inclined, here’s a link to the campaign:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/morganrileytransition?utm_medium=email&utm_source=product&utm_campaign=p_email%2B2300-co-team-welcome

myr s is still mostly using they/them pronouns at the moment but we’re starting to use he/him as well in general conversation. It’s an interesting journey for all of us.

So here’s to myr s – Happy Birthday and long may the soppiness continue.

Birthday Shenanigans 2018

Lady M was in Germany overnight last week and I got a text to remind me that her flight would get in about quarter to seven in the evening. It was closely followed by another text saying that I would also need to pick up my next present from Sunbury station at half past six.

A little context here: we’ve developed something of a tradition where we give whichever of us has a birthday a present on each day in the week leading up to it. They don’t have to be big or expensive, they’re just little things to cause a smile or excitement each day.

I had half an idea already from other comments during the day that something was being plotted, but when someone’s having fun with a surprise it’s rude to delve too deeply and ruin it all.

When I traipsed round after work to the station, there was Lady S – who had come for a long weekend visit as a birthday surprise. Time was tight so we hurried to get her bags back to the flat before racing to pick up Lady M.

Our extended weekend (aside from working Friday), included a Wessex Pistols gig, supporting Lady P at the Musical Chairs event in Camden, and a photoshoot in Bourne Wood despite plummeting temperatures.

I have been very spoiled by friends and family this weekend, and it has certainly been a birthday to remember. Thank you everyone

What A Glorious Wedding

One of my cousins got married on Saturday. My own journey to the church bore more than a passing resemblance to the opening sequence of Four Weddings and a Funeral, up to and including driving past the church, last minute course corrections and getting there just before the bride.

Still, the service was good, the hymns melodic and the bride glowing, and with only a small amount of nervous map reading and navigation of one-way systems we were soon on to the reception. There, good food and drink and an increasing circle of new acquaintances was waiting – and hardly anyone got hurt or their food ruined when everyone realised their place holders were functional card planes and began throwing them everywhere. 

It was a grand evening, and I only had one mild anxiety attack midway through the evening as I became over-saturated with people. A short walk around the gardens, a contemplation of the empty swimming pool and the trampoline next to it, and I was back on track to be able to be sociable again.

It was one of those rare occasions when the whole family was in attendance – a gathering of the clan as it were – and I’ll have fond memories of the day for quite some time.

Edward and Rosie – congratulations, thank you for having us, and see you soon we hope.

A Naturalisation

Last year, as weird and wonderful election results gave everyone adrenaline dumps for a variety of reasons, two things happened: 

Happy July 4th
I spent a lot of time swearing under my breath, and on one memorable occasion here. And, by way of contrast, Lady G decided that after nearly thirty years in the UK she should probably get around to applying for British citizenship. A year of application forms, a written test, a number of expenses, and a few worried evenings of nerves later, she received the news she had been hoping for – and so yesterday Lady M and I were invited to support her at her Citizenship Ceremony. The irony of a US citizen becoming a British citizen on July 4th was not lost on any of us.

I’ve always felt a bit bemused by the concept – unlike Lady G’s native USA, we’re not generally fond of flag-waving nationalism bar a bit of silliness at The Proms or events like The Olympic Games. Walking into a room adorned with the Union Jack, gold-trimmed chairs and fittings, and a selection of traditional martial music was therefore both a little surreal, and yet…

…it was also deeply fitting, for a given value of Britishness.

The Deputy Mayor, in full regalia, presided over the ceremony – the candidates could choose to swear by a deity of choice, or affirm for themselves – and the people taking part were all ages. Everyone had family and friends with them, and yet what could have been a deeply informal and uncomfortable ceremony somehow retained both lightness and gravitas.

My only real snark was that a lot of the address felt like a tourist board advertisement for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. I’m a harsh critic perhaps. 

This is beside the point though. Lady G was beaming and practically floating through it all. Her face lit up the room when presented with her medal and certificate. Everyone taking their oath that morning was similarly energised and enthused by the moment. I am at one and the same time a hardened cynic and a hopeless romantic, and that latter side resonated enough to make the former admit the value of the moment.

And then we had tea in the mayor’s chambers – and true to local government tradition it was the worst cuppa I’ve had in a long time. I’m including in that scale the diner near The Lizard which hadn’t changed its burned coffee filter in a decade. 

Welcome, Lady G, to Britishness.

Winning Ways

I know I can write. I know I can write well. I know I can move and thrill and amuse people, often within the same piece. There’s still nothing quite like having it confirmed in a competition.

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I entered one this month, largely from having a couple of friends flag it on Facebook. It started by being challenged by Lord Danger, who had already had a crack at it, and by Ladies M and G, who keep an eye out for this sort of thing.

It was a simple enough thing, to write a short story based on a picture. In this instance it was a road traffic sign with a picture of a fairy on it. How could I turn that down?

I scribbled a quick piece over coffee, did a quick couple of edits as I typed it up, and submitted it, and thought no more about it.

This weekend we’re visiting friends, and I glanced at my phone as we arrived to see a torrent of notifications. The first was from Lady G, ecstatic on my behalf but with no explanation as to why. The second was from the competition owner, telling me I’d won first prize.

It hasn’t really quite sunk in yet, but there’s a quiet little glow of confidence that’s quite different from what I get when I sell my non-fiction articles. I knew it was a good story, it felt like bottled lightning as I committed it to paper, and it made me smile to complete it.

So that’s all worked out well.

You can find the results and the winning stories at http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/april-short-fiction-contest-winners.html so go have a look, enjoy, and picture the daft little grin on my face this morning.

So, Awesomeness Happened

It was my birthday on Friday, and it was a good excuse to let our hair down and party like the proverbial madmen. We’ve needed it. I’ve needed it. You may have noticed a distinct lack of writing the last few weeks, and that has been entirely down to finding it incredibly difficult to bring myself to do any blogging at all because of the ongoing stresses and deep anger of what this year has thrown at me and the people around me this year.

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I could have used this blog to rage and rant, but I think you would all have found it getting rather boring pretty quickly. I don’t like airing dirty laundry in public either, taking the approach that anything posted here could be news front page copy at any time and biting my tongue accordingly. The discipline and honesty that comes with posting under my own name is both a challenge and headache sometimes.

So Lady M and I took this week off to do some decorating in the flat, have some downtime that didn’t involve solving other people’s crises, and do things that made us smile.

My birthday was on Friday, so after a sedate morning of gifts and wall painting, we headed up to central London and a real ale session in a pub not far from Euston station. We were later joined by Lady G for a few drinks, a wander across town to get food and then back to Maidment Towers for more gossip, a single malt or two and a binge watch of Netflix until about 3.30 in the morning.

Gloriously unaffected by any kind of hangover (I know, sickening), we dropped Lady G home, decorated some more, and then went to The Plough in the evening for a meal and a Wessex Pistols gig. In a sort of surprise move, Lady M had invited a motley crew to join usĀ  including the Charleesi, the ex-Lady M, Lord Danger, Lady P, and friends old and new. The band sang Happy Birthday to me, we shouted abuse back, we all had a glorious time, and hats got stolen.

We also came up with some ideas for this year’s cosplays at MCM. Should be interesting…

So, all in all, an epic weekend that also included taking the Charleesi to see Deadpool, many new books, and finding something positive to write about for the first time in several weeks.

Now to keep the momentum going.

The Big Party

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Lady M’s Saturday party was a huge success, thanks to the kindness and dedication of several people, and a willingness to really go for it on the costume side of things. For example, the Charleesi composed a Spotify playlist that the landlord agreed to play through his PA system. Between this list and a later one used by the pub, there was a huge amount of singing. Some of this has made its way onto social media.

Two of our guests (Lord and Lady H) arranged for a birthday cake and cupcakes to be made, based on Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. The gasp from Lady M when we revealed them made all the subterfuge worth it. Lady P helped source decorations and stepped in to provide last minute transport for a couple of guests who might otherwise not have made it. My younger brother, Lord Demonic, entertained and kept the spirits and wine and beer flowing, and the pub served up a great buffet that both fed the troops and didn’t bankrupt me!

As for the costumes, well pretty much everyone threw themselves into the fray. We had an R2D2 and C3P0 couple, The Doctor, Merida, Ursula, Caitlin Snow (from The Flash), Arthur Dent (complete with towel), Jane Bond and her glamorous toyboy, Captain Jack Sparrow, a gangster, a couple of Bollywood stars, Clark Kent, and a survivor of the zombie apocalypse with more than a little bit of red on him.

The landlord and bar staff took it very much in their stride. Many of the regulars were extremely bemused. We all had a great time, and then went our separate ways.

It probably comes as no surprise that Sunday was very, very quiet…