Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day – as far as I am aware, a completely fabricated excuse to sell cards rather than anything traditional (I’m pretty sure it didn’t exist when I was younger)

Still, it’s a nice excuse to do and say nice things, and to recognise the good that most people do. Within a varied polycule of people with various gender expressions it gets a bit complicated until you settle down and relax. My daughter sent me a card and a Viking-style glass drinking horn. The cub went the traditional eleven year old boy route of not even noticing it was happening. I left an answerphone message for mine which I’ll follow up today, and various others had interactions with those parental figures still alive or present.

And for those having a bad day, we gathered round and were found family.

And now back to the grind, time to put the kettle on.

Escape Room Shenanigans

We’re celebrating the cub’s birthday across this weekend, accompanied by Lady M’s niece and nephew, and the highlight as far as he’s concerned has been this morning where we took him to an escape room at the Denbies Estate just outside Dorking. He’s been wanting to do one for months since watching YouTubers attempt them and so we had a look round without telling him. Through careful questioning we discerned he wanted to try something spy-based, so it seemed appropriate to allow a little cloak and dagger about the event. Which is why we made sure it was all a big surprise.

Even as he got out of the car, he still didn’t know why we’d made him get up on a Saturday morning to come to a vineyard. When he noticed the signs, he started getting excited and asked again why we were here – and then when we confirmed we were there for an escape room, he started bouncing up and down on the spot. It’s probably the most excited I’ve seen him in quite some time, and the gleeful grin was wonderful.

The scenario was, as described, an explosive spy thriller, involving hidden rooms and videos of missile launches and we managed to not only beat the game, but completed every single puzzle – the last with 8 seconds to go. It was far more fun than I imagined it would be, and our respective skills and experiences meshed well. From knowledge of Ancient Greek, autistic hyperfocus, a head for logic puzzles, and all the inquisitive running around you can imagine; we all cracked puzzles, found solutions, and unearthed conundrums.

The kids, and cub especially, were buzzing with excitement and retelling of things they’d found and done – and to be fair so were the adults as we gathered for a pub lunch. About the only thing that sparked more excitement was the unwrapping of presents later – but that’s the cub for you.

Wouldn’t have him any other way.

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.

image

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.