Halloween Library

I made an old woman cry yesterday. I was serving her and as I removed my mask behind the screen she did a doubletake. Then she said I was the absolute double of her son, down to the beard, eyes, and voice – and tears welled up. She left quickly after, as I told her I hoped it meant it could be something she could look forward to next time – which was the best I could manage at short notice.

I don’t know the context, I assume either death or estrangement figured in the story somewhere. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for moments like that.

And so we carry on. In this case to Halloween, which feels thematically consistent at least.

Your friendly Library Manager at large

And I have assistants dressed as witches, a bone suit and face mask at the ready, and loads of families wandering in and out despite torrential rain. There are far worse ways to spend a Saturday than dressed up and having a bit of a light hearted approach to the job. It would have been the last of MCM comiccon this week so at least I’m dressed up for something.

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.

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 Story: Textual Awareness

Her fingers tapped away at the keyboard on her screen, a combination of concentration and amusement on her face. There was so much to do and so little time. The party was meant to be starting soon, and the invite had mentioned costumes, so that was another layer of concern. Concern, that was a good name, better than worry.

At least they had the car. They were meant to be gathering in a pub, so at least if it was a washout they could get some drinks and slip away. She wasn’t going to drink anyway, so at least her husband, friend to the birthday boy, could let his hair down for the evening if he wanted.

She looked around the hotel room and checked her reflection before heading down to the bar. Her husband was still bringing his case up from the car so he’d need some time to change. He’d decided to go as that character from Hitchhiker’s Guide, Arthur somebody, so a dressing gown and towel featured heavily in his near future – but she hoped there would be more than that. If nothing else it was cold out there, it was the end of February after all.

Her phone buzzed while she stood in the elevator, one of several conversations under way at the moment. There was one with hubby, another with the birthday boy’s wife, a work discussion, and of course her mother.

“We’ll be there in about an hour I think.” She wrote to their hostess. “Gav’s got to change, he got held up at work, but we’re both at the hotel now.” There was a quick response of a smiling emoji.

“I’ve headed to the bar. I’ve picked up something to wear under your costume and put it on the bed for you.” She sent to Gavin. She got a question mark response. She frowned and made her way to the bar.

“Go look on the bed. I’ve picked out something to wear tonight so you don’t freeze. You can’t come down to the pub just wearing a dressing gown.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely, I’m in the bar, go put it on, get ready and meet me down here so we can head out for the night.” She put the phone down on the bar while she ordered an orange and soda, and saw the phone vibrate again.

“I’ve just got in, these things on the bed for me? Great, see you soon.” She read. A quick smile spread across her face, and then she frowned. The chat icon was different.

Her phone buzzed again, her work colleague Delia this time, with the icon of the person she’d just been texting. “Uh, I know we joke about me being your work wife, but I didn’t think we were moving to this level? Hope you haven’t broken into my house to leave nightwear out for me?”

Oh boy, this was going to make for an awkward first coffee in Monday…

Back to The Smoke

We sheltered in a number of motorway services...
We sheltered in a number of motorway services…

So, we survived the downpour of Storm Desmond by basically being on high ground on the Cumbrian borders. It’s only really been today that I’ve looked at news sites and seen the havoc wreaked on places that I’d been planning to take the Ladies during the day.Our duvet day was therefore confirmed as the best possible solution to horrendous weather – nice to have that decision upheld even in hindsight. Still, it wasn’t all sitting and reading quietly. In the middle of the afternoon, we heard noises outside and had to investigate, if only by peering out the window.

It turned out that there had been a car rally planned in the truck park next to the hotel, but that was almost a complete washout too – with tricked out small cars trying to speed up and down an access road. We had heard one of them – a little Ford Fiesta with an out-sized exhaust that was definitely trying too hard. The driving instructor in his sticker-emblazoned car was more alarming for his inability to steer or to pick up any speed despite being in a Mondeo, and to be honest I can’t remember much of the other vehicles. As you can tell, it wasn’t quite a classic car rally.

Lady M as a Posh Poison Ivy

As for the party, well we might have been a bit more dressed up than some of the other guests, but I like to think we made up for it by being generally more glamourous than many people.

The general theme had been put forward as being generally around the 80s, and so there were a large number of UK editions of Thundercats comics spread on the tables, classic penny sweets on vinyl records, our Hostess (the Lady Pixie) dressed as She-Ra, and the Inimitable Hugh as Ripley from Aliens.

I have to say that his jumpsuit was fantastic, with all the right patches and loving attention to detail throughout the whole costume. We really must get him to a convention at some point. It’s just a shame that with his goatee and the massive curly wig he looked rather like a Fast Show incarnation from a Scouser remake of the film, and we kept expecting him to start telling everyone to “Calm down, Calm down!”

Lady P went to the Ball after all as Cinderella
Lady P went to the Ball after all as Cinderella

We had people dressed up as Pac-man and a couple of Ghosts (by the application of painted cardboard), a number of Beetlejuices, a Robert Smith (he, of The Cure), a Suggs, and a Ghostbuster complete with inflatable Proton Pack. My particular favourite was Lady Pixie’s younger sister, who wore a red hoodie, and a pair of handlebars and a basket with a miniature ET sitting in it hanging from a strap in front of her.

There was a degree of good-natured ribbing of us Southerners*, which was a good excuse for every anti-Yorkshire joke to then be pulled out by the Lancastrians. I apparently got a pass for having a Welsh background, even if it was still perilously close to France.

Knowing the weather was getting worse and we had a long drive in the morning, we didn’t stay until the bitter end – plus our assorted anxieties around not knowing many people there nagged at our heels a bit – and so we disappeared again into the night with the sounds of Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance ringing in our ears. It was that kind of night…

Good evening, I shall be your Death tonight...
Good evening, I shall be your Death tonight…

And the journey home was… well, motorways and more service stations and sudden cries of “I need the loo!” before we got home safe and sound, ready to do battle with the new week. Lady M continues to do battle with companies and bring them to their knees. Lady P has started a new job at Game, and I am a beacon of calm and serenity in the face of the public and new staff movements.**

At least the weather has calmed down back in the South, and is now merely freezing cold. Extra layers are becoming more than an option as I walk to work each day… Must be why I’ve applied for a couple of new jobs this week.

* well, of Lady P and I, Lady M is rather more Northern than they were.

**this statement may in fact be partially or wholly untrue and should be taken as at least an intention, no matter what wailing or gnashing of teeth may be detected.


Costume Preparations


This weekend, we’re all off to a birthday party at the other end of the country, and it’s all hands to the pumps to get costumes sorted out. As you might have worked out, we’re not the sort of people who groan when they see an invitation to dress up, but rather embrace the challenge.

Our host is the delightful Lady Pixie, owner of the Phoenixxrising store, and the general theme of the party is one of the 80s/general costumes. Well, what’s the worst that could happen? It’ll be our first big outing together, so the cries of “Road Trip!” are already filling the air.

For my costume I’ve been revisiting my Death Eater; largely because of the urbanely gothic tastes of our host. Rather than borrowing kit from people, I’ve been investing time and a little bit of money this time, and I’ll do a trial run tomorrow. A new survoat and cloak have been added to the repainted mask and of course the wands and cane. I’m aiming to be stylishly sinister, but suspect I need to tweak it for practical concerns like eating and drinking. There may even be facepainting.

Lady M is probably going as a version of Poison Ivy, and Lady P is probably going as a Disney Princess of some description, but they’re both playing their cards close to their chests – probably so I don’t blab about it here on the blog. I suspect shenanigans, and am looking forward to the mayhem.

In addition, with Friday being Lady P’s last day at the library before starting a new job at Game, I’ve been tasked by the powers that be with arranging suitable leaving presents from the library. There may have to be flowers and a parting shot to people that we’re eloping for the weekend, but probably only if it’s the right audience.

Oh well, back to the grindstone, and a prayer that the next time I look up our country isn’t bombing anyone new.

The Big Party


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…

MCM London October 2015


We’re collapsed on the sofa right now, aching and tired from a long day at MCM London ComicCon. Like any convention, there have been frustrations and unexpected joys, but over all it has been a joy. We went in costume again, just like last year, but we didn’t have a unified theme this time. Highlights included some time playing Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Lady M getting extremely fangirly over Jack from Rooster Teeth, and Charleesi finding the only other Mortal Instruments cosplayers at the Convention.

We used the day as a dry run for the costumes in which we’ll be celebrating Lady M’s birthday. My Clark Kent costume proved comfortable and practical, while Lady M’s Ursula costume struck a great balance between style and whimsy that hardly ever got in the way despite the tentacles. I have no idea what Lady P is planning, but given her ever-expanding stable of alter-egos I’m sure it will be spectacular.


The Charleesi’s costume was elegantly simple, inspired by the Mortal Instruments books. She grabbed a Sharpie and began drawing Shadow hunter runes on her arm. The pictures of these on social media last night led to bemused queries from her mother, hoping they weren’t permanent. I forsee interesting conversations should Charleesi decide she wants tattoos any time in the near future.

So, to bed, back to the relatively real world, and some planning possibly required for the next one to try and not go round in quite so many circles. A six mile walk round one Convention Centre shouldn’t be leaving me quite so sore, so I’d better get back in practice.

Still Confuzzled

I’m still struggling to get to grips with the new library hours, especially on long weeks like this. My body is only grudgingly remembering that Wednesday is no longer a day off, which is why I left the house on Wednesday morning thinking I had half an hour to meander the ten minutes or so to work to open up.

That’s when I remembered that I have to be there half an hour before opening time to get everything set up – ie that as I was walking out of the house was precisely the time I should have been letting myself into the library.

Most of the rest of this week has felt like that, unhelped by broken sleep and the gloom of the season. Still, I have all the elements gathered now for Halloween/Birthday shenangians now, and tomorrow I take Lady M in search of her costume…

Costume Bemusement

There are three things upcoming that demand costumes, so I’m in the process of looking around at the Halloween costumes and props to see what I can use.

The first event will be the MCM London Convention, for which we’ve decided at almost the last minute to get tickets. That decision has been equal parts a desire to support Lady P as she gets her confidence back, and fond memories of last year’s convention.

Our Death Eater costumes last year seemed to intimidate an awful lot of people, so our original plan was just to go in casual attire. Then temptation struck to do something simple, just because.

The second event will be a combination of Halloween and a family-friendly birthday gathering for Lady M. I’m inviting people to dress with a literary, or at least popular culture, theme.

The third event will be the more raucous main celebration for Lady M’s birthday (well, why not make a week of it?). The same rules of engagement apply for that, so my costume needs to be simple and reasonably hard wearing.


So, to that end I’m creating a Clark Kent costume. I’ve found a good T-shirt with a design based on the recent film, and will be wearing that beneath a wrenched aside shirt, tie and glasses. I was thinking of going with just my usual black jeans, but I suspect I’ll end up wearing a suit with them. As the current comic book depiction of Clark Kent is crop headed, my currently freshly clipped hair should be a good match, and I’ve already shaved the goatee back off to get my skin used to seeing daylight again.

That said, I did see a very nice mask in Tesco that, with only a little modifying, will make a very nice Death Eater mask…