All Ending In Tiers

I couldn’t resist the joke.

Within ten minutes of the announcement of Surrey going in to Tier 3 restrictions I had people coming in wanting to grab as many books as possible. They were afraid we were about to close our doors.

Thankfully I was in a position to be able to tell them that while they were very welcome to carry as many books as they could, we would be remaining open so they could relax. Our existing precautions and spaces, along with the fact we don’t serve food or drink meant we don’t need to alter the service we provide.

There was much relief, and slightly less worry as a result.

I have one more day of work and then I’m off until after Christmas. I feel I’ve earned the break.

Passing Time

I’ll preface this by saying I don’t currently feel unwell. That said I can’t help but be nervous just from all the reports of illness, and the notices from people on my social feeds that they are either infected or self-isolating at the moment. Coupled with the panic buying in the local shops, which is the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’m having to actively manage my time and reactions to keep a steady keel.

Lady M and I have spent this evening anxiously on different sofas thanks to her chest feeling “a bit rattly” when she got home. With no temperature or actual cough, not to mention the feeling disappearing once anti-histamines were taken, we’ve tentatively put it down to anxiety and hay fever. But we’re still sleeping in separate rooms to be on the safe side tonight.

Chatting online with myr s, they’re not coping with the worry well either. We’re all of us anxious for our families and loved ones. We’re all total geeks so the thought of enforced time at home with our books and games isn’t particularly daunting – it really is just the potential knock-on to others that has us all on edge.

For my part I’m just hoping that I’ve merely got the plague from a particularly persistent cougher who took over the public PC area this afternoon. Bit of plague can be treated, it’ll be fine.

Anyway, haven’t got time to brood, I’ve books to read and drawings to complete


I seem to have had a day that’s veered between annoying people on purpose through to major foot in mouth moments, with a side order of “would anything else like to fall off this building?”

One of the aspects of my work at the library that tends to elevate my stress levels is managing the maintenance of the buildings – or at least nudging corporate property services to respond when things go bang, clunk, fail to work or let in the weather in ways we’d rather they didn’t.

One of the libraries in my remit has a growing number of issues that may or may not be related, and that seem to causing a domino effect. Every one thing getting fixed seems to then lead to two more cropping up. I spend a lot of my time on the phone or chasing emails.

Staffing issues will always be high on the agenda of course. The last couple of days have had me smiling through gritted teeth, or asking myself why I am even having to challenge individuals on what should be completely obvious issues. At the same time I will continue to defend them from external pressures.

It has left me… a little frazzled around the edges. This has then dulled my ability to operate my own mouth to consider some of the words coming out of it in a timely fashion and instead let some absolute garbage out. Some of those who’ve engaged with me today have therefore been justifiably annoyed at my responses. 

While I’ve apologised where appropriate and we’ve moved on; my brain has of course continued to administer the self-inflicted beatings of remorse and anxiety with its usual gusto long after the fact. I guess if nothing else it’s a sign of acknowledging mistakes; but if it could rein back in now and remember that the world isn’t actually about to implode, it would be helpful.

Who knows what new joys tomorrow will bring?

Unveiling Imminent

I don’t officially start the new job until Monday, when I have an induction/official branding or something at Egham library in the afternoon. In the meantime I’ve been asked to interrupt my week off with a staff meeting at Ashford tomorrow so they can be officially be told they’ll be some of my minions. Straight after that is a meeting of all the managers in the cluster to do an end of month handover and discussion of issues.

Even though I know and have worked with everyone who is going to be present at both meetings, I can’t help but feel a degree of trepidation. The new job is suddenly feeling a little more real as opposed to a nebulous theoretical situation.

I shall of course approach the whole thing with my trademarked laconic sarcasm and attention to awkward detail – which are after all important parts of why they hired me in the first place.

I think the disquiet is merely a reflection of changing team dynamics. The people at the first meeting are largely people who will have worked with me as a peer, and who must now make the adjustment to officially having me be one of their managers. The second meeting is full of managers who have largely treated me as an almost equal but still a subordinate, but must now work with me as a peer. 

Essentially they will be my new team after nearly four years of working with the team at Sunbury. They’re not the only ones needing to adjust their expectations. I will also be needing to make those mental adaptations in turn, and I’m curious to find out where the new challenges on the interpersonal front will be.

It’s a different set of intellectual and social muscles that are about to come into play, so perhaps likening this wariness to that of approaching a new physio routine sight unseen is more accurate.

It’ll be fine. What’s the worst that could happen?

Making the Best of Things

I could sit and wallow in the little disappointments, random plot 

twists, brain farts, derailed expectations, or jealousies – and that does feel quite tempting. Alternatively I could do something about it. We’re back to that basic underpinning of what makes for an awesome life, and it seems as ever to be tied to a willingness to take a hard look at what’s causing that slow drag on life and then refusing to be ruled by it.

These hiccups can come from many sources: it can be those conversations where someone says “I love you, but not in that way”, or where the only dialogue you have when you get home is an unspooling of the other person’s day and a demand to be fed. It might be the jealousy of seeing someone taking a holiday in the sun when all your holiday leave has been spent caring for people or burying them. It can come from unanswered texts, or people not thanking you for the simple kindnesses. It can come from being in constant pain, or the worry of money or exam results. In truth, it doesn’t really matter. 

Hand on heart, we can all point to things right now in our lives that upset, or make us at least quietly thoughtful. There’s nothing wrong with that. That is, as the saying goes, just life. The biggest danger sometimes to my mental equilibrium is trying to chase after everyone in search of affirmation. The problem is that it isn’t practical to try and be all things to all people. You’re on a hiding to nothing even trying. 

So, what am I going to do, or am already doing, to refocus on what’s important? Nothing earthshaking; we’ve already established I’m a stubborn sod after all. I’m going to carry on reminding myself to just do my thing – whatever that thing may be – and those who are interested will engage, while those who aren’t will carry on in theirs – and you know what, that’s okay too. I’m going to carry on with the exercise, supporting Lady M, writing, drawing, and running the mostly weekly D&D games. I’ll spend time with my frankly awesome daughter, and if anyone wants to dip in and say hi for a while then I’ll see you when I see you. 

Uneasy Malaise

My enthusiasm and joie de vivre are both pretty suppressed at the moment, and it’s taken me a while to compose my thoughts around recent events. The murders at Pulse in Orlando, and of Jo Cox MP in West Yorkshire are both resonating with me on two counts.

Firstly they both took place in or just outside what are generally considered as safe places. Gay clubs are often one of the few places where people can be themselves, especially if their families or neighbourhood are unsympathetic or outright opposed to their rights to even exist, let alone love who they love.

Libraries, despite what feels like a concerted assault by government, are community hubs serving everyone, helping those in need to help themselves with information, access to resources, and sometimes physical space to avoid a hostile outside world. Local and national politicians use them for surgeries because they know libraries are seen as a neutral meeting ground, and they go where people will feel safe enough to talk.

The second resonance comes because in each case, the perpetrators of the actual murders are being tarred with a variety of brushes to suit political ends. Mental illness has again been suggested as a factor in each crime, but at the same time there seems to be a reluctance to address whatever has triggered these horrific attacks.

On both sides of the Atlantic, rhetoric and hatred has been allowed to hijack public debate. Right wing media has joined in fanning dismay and prejudice, and the sad fact is that those of us who suffer from mental illness can find ourselves being even more sensitive to the outrage and bile than whoever cares to label themselves as ‘normal’.

In such a toxic mix of cheap outrage and manufactured hatred, it’s not hugely surprising that some people snap. Whether it’s due to self-loathing and feelings of powerlessness, an inability or unwillingness to ask deeper questions, or someone planting a seductively easy target in front of them in their confusion, there’s only so much frenzy that people can let slide off their shoulders before they begin to identify with it.

The real shame is that those peddling the hate won’t see that they’ve done harm, or do anything to change their ways. It’ll all just get used to justify the next wave of distorted crap that sells us all down the river.

So you’ll excuse my lack of humour at the moment I hope. Normal chirpy facemasks will be resumed in due course. Your challenge, should you accept it, is to see what you can do to level the playing fields and do some good in the world. What are you waiting for?

International Rescue

There are times when my counsellor looks at me, raises an eyebrow, and struggles to sigh, grin, and stay composed all at the same time. It usually happens when I’ve been putting other people’s needs ahead of my own for an extended period of time, and I’m looking a bit ragged around the edges.


The last week or so has been one of those rollercoaster events, coupled with overtime at the library and an extra influx of articles, so suffice to say I’m enjoying a weekend of doing not much and curling up with Lady M.

The recent troubles arose out of events in Lady G’s life (she who has also been dubbed Lady M-to-be by the current and ex-Lady Ms. Pay attention, there may be a test later). Domestic life in her household has not been going smoothly, and all of us in her social circle have been increasingly concerned by the behaviours of her partner – especially those of us who have been in emotionally abusive relationships in the past.

This came to a head last Sunday when some of us were down the pub. I received a message from Lady G that her partner had accused her of being an alcoholic, and that none of her friends liked her when she was drunk.

Having supported people battling with drugs and alcohol, I can tell you categorically right now that she is not an alcoholic.

I showed the message to the assembled throng, and my favourite Valkyries (Ladies M and P) rose from our game of Cards Against Humanity, grabbed the car keys, and drove round to Lady G’s house to kidnap rescue her for the afternoon. A very pleasant afternoon and evening then followed, as we reinforced our support, love, friendship, and care for her while continuing the game.

We dropped her home later, and stayed on standby to rescue her if things turned nasty. She ended up coming over to the flat the next day and staying over. A number of in-jokes based on comments made in arguments have now gained currency in our group, and while she is back home and her partner pretending nothing has happened, she is thinking things through.

This of course is the frustration any of us feel when we see someone in a bad situation, where they are being acidicly undermined and made to lose their self confidence. The urge to leap in and rescue someone can feel overwhelming, but the only person who can resolve things is Lady G herself.

It is hard to watch, but we are all supporting her with kind words, jokes, and counter arguments to what she is being told by her partner.  How will things turn out? Well that depends on what makes Lady G happy I guess.

A Week Of Woe


The last week has, frankly, been awful – which is why I’ve not been updating recently. Instead we’ve been mostly on the road and living on caffeine and bloody-mindedness.

Lady M’s father had been rushed into hospital after a fall, but we learned in the early hours of Wednesday morning that he was in critical condition and the hospital was advising us to come in. The hospital in question was in North Tees, and we live on the outskirts of London – so with very little sleep or time for preparation we threw stuff into a bag, wrote texts to assorted people who needed to know, and hit the road.

As of today, he is still in a critical condition with multiple system failures, on life support and non-stop dialysis, and we’ve had to make the heartrending decision to come home and try and carry on with life while the specialists try to work out if he has any chance of recovery. We’re expecting sooner rather than later to get a fresh call to return and say goodbye, but we also know how tough and stubborn he is so who knows how this will end? The specialists aren’t taking bets, so we’re not either.

I use humour to get through and past the trials of life, but between this, my own slightly precarious health and the problems of the people I love, that humour is pretty thinly stretched at the moment.

An Uncomfortable Night

I’ve been watching more Jessica Jones on Netflix and now I can’t sleep. It’s bringing up all sorts of ghosts and making my skin crawl, but its also a riveting drama. I just have to limit my viewings to a few episodes at a time. It just hits a bit close to home.

In the meantime I’m also worried for both Ladies M and P as they deal with various odds and ends. They’re stronger and braver than they sometimes give themselves credit for, but we can’t help worrying about the people we love can we? I can just be here as they need and let me, and try to keep my insecurities and catastrophising to an absolute minimum.

On the positive side we’ve got the Charleesi staying with us for a couple of days, so I’ll see if I can tear her away from her studies from time to time while I have a few days off…

I’ll try writing something more dryly gleeful and seasonal later, but right now it’s a bit of a struggle. Grrr and argghhhh.

Detonate The Focus

No, this is not the latest battleplan from my gaming group, but instead what seems to have been the danger posed by my car the last few days. I’d be the first to admit that I’m not really a petrol-head (that appellation definitely belongs to Lady M), but I’ve had a bit of a steep learning curve recently. In times gone past, when I earned a lot more money, I just had my car serviced several times a year and let the mechanics at the dealership worry about oil levels and coolants. I don’t have that luxury these days, and so I’d completely forgotten to check the oil. I say ‘I’ as I’m the main driver, even though the car belongs to Lady M.


Prompted by various odd noises made by the car (a Ford Focus, hence the blog title today), we checked the levels on Friday last week, and I bought some extra oil when I realised that there didn’t seem to be any oil on the dipstick at all. On Sunday, just before heading out to go see Demonic for lunch, we topped it up. Well, I say topped up – as the levels didn’t seem to be rising on the dipstick when I tested it, I ended up overfilling the reservoir. We only noticed this when we got flashed by another driver about five minutes into our journey and I realised that I could only see white smoke out the back window. There was also a rather worrying burning smell.

Reasoning that this was a small overfill and that it would eventually burn off, we nevertheless doubled back to the flat and swapped over to Lady M’s hire car. This has been provided by her work place to cover her until her company car gets delivered. We duly sped over for Sunday lunch with my brother and his family, and I spent some time in the evening trying to burn off the excess.

By Tuesday there was still no improvement, and the burning smell kept coming back (obviously, because it’s oil that’s getting fried off as the engine heats, leading to a last minute cancelling of our usual evening jaunt to the pub because I didn’t feel safe driving down busy roads in a cloud of partially burnt oil and water vapour. So this morning I steeled myself to call the RAC to come and have a look. By now we were half convinced that we’d done permanent damage to the car, possibly cracking a gasket, and that we’d either need to buy a new engine, or a new car.

My relief, when the engineer arrived and confirmed that there was no permanent damage but we really had very much over-filled the oil reservoir, was immense. Almost as immense as the three excess litres of oil that he had to drain off. I’ve now spent a reasonable portion of the afternoon running the engine and quietly driving around the estate and the local carparks to finish burning off the excess still in the pipes.

The ultimate test has been driving over this evening to see the Charleesi, using the heavy spray from the rain to disguise the vapour and enjoying the relative anonymity of the autumn evening light. I’m only slightly exaggerating, as the smoke seems to have largely subsided. I’ve also been encouraged by how many other vehicles have been pouring forth equivalent amounts of smoke from their exhausts on my journey. Hopefully this means my confidence will start to reassert itself soon – I’ve felt rather more shaken by the whole experience than expected.

Oh well, I’ve at least had the opportunity, while peering over the engineer’ shoulder, to learn a bit about my engine’s layout. If I ever need to rev my car’s engine from the outside, I now know what to pull on to make it happen.

What’s the worst that could happen?