You say Victorian, I say Pseudo-Regency

I don’t actually believe, in the end, that I’m much of a Victorian.

I am part of an in-between generation, much in the way of the put-upon Millennials of this day and age–born between old and new technologies and world-views, somewhat comfortable with both, and generally regarded as being the root of all problems by those too lazy to question their own proclivities and shortcomings.

You are Scarlet Johansson.  I am Emily Bronte.

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Would rather be ScarJo, though, really would.

What does this look like in practice?  Well…

I arrived on the scene in 1818, as part of the post-French Revolution “baby boom,” as you might call it.  Disembarked soldiers arrived back on the shores of England, told stories of heroism, took up with young women, and populated our tiny island with soon to be orphans.

I came up as a very young man in an almshouse in Yorkshire, walked to London when I was 12, discarding my lilt and taking up something a bit more Cockney, and then came of age in the city.  I had a printer’s apprenticeship, a poor boy’s scholarship to University College London, which had just opened thanks to that blessedly eccentric Jeremy Bentham, and a feeling of continual bewilderment.

I was a transplant, you see, and I could never entirely shake that.

For instance, I developed active, functional literacy, but rather slowly, with the topics of my tutelage quite differentiated from those of young men and women who were brought up in traditional homes.  Where they read the classics, histories, and Shakespeare, I hadn’t the cultural scope for such things, and cut my teeth on pamphlet literature, newspapers, and music.  (Although I did come back around and discover Shakespeare.  Don’t worry.)

Or to take another example of this in-between becomingness–I was just shy of penniless throughout college, which does colour one’s attitudes toward reasonable goals.  So while my mates purchased finery, fought over politics, attended the season, and planned their first, or in some cases, second European tour, I purchased brown bread and cheese, ignored all the politics because lord knows I couldn’t vote in an election anyway, and occasionally tagged along after them at social events in a borrowed, ill-fitting suit and a consistently droopy cravat.

And even aside from my own personal out-of-placement, I was not privy to those things that 20th and 21st century folks tend to think of as Victorian nor was I really high Regency.

I lived in a world as of yet uninformed by John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, or Oscar Wilde.  But I had also missed the heyday so vibrantly described and lived by John Keats, Lord Byron, or Jane Austen.

I was born after the dawn of the factory system…but only just–my birth missed the Luddite movement by only two years.  So, the air that I breathed was a mite cleaner than the air of later Victorians, but sooty enough to inspire the Chartist labour movement, of which I was proudly a part, despite my apprenticed status.

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Coincidentally, I attended this 1848 Chartist demonstration, somewhere in that sea of flat caps.

I was born in the age of the King Georges.  Victoria did not take the throne until 1837.

I was born before the height of empire, before the extension of the franchise and the era of mass politics, before the earliest welfare systems of the late-nineteenth century.  Before germ theory, votes-for-women, the decline of the aristocracy, or Darwin.

I remember the Irish Famine, but I was not alive to see the struggles for Home Rule.

I remember the Corn Law battles between the Whigs, Tories, and Radicals, but the resultant liberal and conservative parties were fledgling at best when I passed on.

I remember reading Karl Marx when he was fresh off the presses in the Springtime of the Peoples, and I read things off the continent in that year of revolutions, just out of translation.  But the resulting conservative backlash and  nationalism, as you know it, was still in flux–an open and contested project, rather than the stuff of flags and anthems.

I did drink a lot of tea though.  That stereotype holds.

And I was forced to participate in my fair share of lawn games and parlour games and turns about the park.

You try enjoying this bloody game when you top out at 6’2″ and all the gear is created for persons ranging from 5’0″ to 5’5.” Go on, tell me how much bloody fun you have…bending in half and sticking out at all angles and looking like some kind of deranged grasshopper with a hammer. Indecorous, I tell you.

So, I suppose my point is, when I speak on things Victorian, keep in mind that my experience of that romanticized world was quite rough and tumble at times, and quite oddly situated, and quite idiosyncratic.

Keep in mind that when I did develop a politics of sorts, they were radical.  I was and am a (small R) republican, a feminist, an anti-imperialist, an abolitionist, a philanthropist, a revolutionary, and an advocate for all rights broadly queer.

And if you ask me about Charles Dickens, expect a full on profanity-laced tirade.

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Got to See a Man about a Go-See

This last winter, one of my designers fell apart at the seams–no pun…some pun intended.

I try to keep six of them in my pocket, because I’ve determined that six is enough to keep me interested without stressing me beyond my ability to look and walk well for each.  I also try to take on jobs that allow me to stay at a consistent age and physique–as a ghost, I can shift at will as long as it’s within my realm of alively experience, or within an achievable range of new experiences as a ghost, but it does perturb the children, especially J.  And, finally, I try to take on jobs that allow me to dress for historical eras.  This might be a throwback to my time in the opera, or it might just be a personal quirk, but whatever the case, I bloody well love flouncing about in costumes from previous eras.

My current list of designers, then, fleshes out as such:

1. Marcus–JS Designs:  Of course, my husband’s line was my first sign.  I shall have to tell the story of our hiring at some point…it’s a tickler.  His clothes are angular, interested in natural materials (wood, ore, leather), and modern, although they are often inspired by his Roma and what he remembers of it.

2. Marie–Mode du Marie: Marie was my second sign. This was apparently something of a coup, although I didn’t realise it at the time, as awestruck and befuddled by everything as I was to begin.  She is the foremost designer of 18th century haute couteur and worked as an assistant to the primary dress designer of Marie Antoinette in life.  And now I traipse down the runway in her glittery creations, acting every part the courtier.  She recently collaborated with Marcus on a line of zoo animal inspired outfits.  She is also mad.  Just completely mad.  She calls her husband, “girafe.”  And she asked me at my interview to describe myself as if I were a hot air balloon.

3. Herschel–Zehr Anzuge:  Herschel signed me on my gentlemanly manner, which holds until I open my mouth and attempt to say any word starting with an “h”.  He makes suits primarily of the Edwardian era, and over the years I’ve come to front his line and print ads.  He’s a dear heart who fancies walks in nature over walks with companions.

4. David–Sliante:  David is adorable.  He’s this shy Irish bloke with an aversion to parties and shmoozing who knits all the sweaters for his line, pines after redheaded lasses, and finds the fact that I’ve gone and made him famous equal parts fantastic and frustrating.  His line is 40s/50s based.

5. Georgie–Regencies:  Georgie is posh, flippant, and something between a dandy and a Corinthian.  He found me in my second year of modelling and snatched me up before my contracts became…absurd.  I love walking for him, as he usually picks natural, wild, forlorn sorts of settings and encourages both Byronic attitude, as well as Byronic attendance–his audiences are overwraught, as are his partners of both sexes.  It’s all rather brilliant, haha.

So, now I find myself in the position of contracting a sixth designer.

This is a bit of a dilemma for a number of reasons.

First, I’m embarassed to say, I have to find someone who can afford me.  I don’t controul my own contracts yet–that happens next year, at which point I plan on taking on brand new designers for next to nothing with the intention of launching their lines.  But for now AMMA tells designers how much they must pay me, and it’s exorbitant and horrid.

Second, I have to find someone in whose line I “fit” as it were.  I need it to be a line in which I can believe, as well as a line in which I dress well.  And I also wish very much to work with other fun blokes who enjoy what they do but don’t take it too seriously.  The sorts who will go out for a beer after wrap and not fret the whole time over calories.

Just these two stipulations narrow my options, considerably.  In fact, I came up with five options:  Medieval, Renaissance, Cavalier, Victorian, or a second modern line.

The second modern line is right out.  I decided rather quickly that I’d rather Marc occupy that spot on his own.  Then I tossed out Victorian because even well tailored Victorian has a tendency toward frumpy, as Marcus discovered when he took in a number of my own jackets for daily wear.  I ruled out the Medieval after some debate because the clothes are just a bit shapeless, as well, and the blokes on the current line rather serious.

So that left Cavalier or Renaissance.  Both sets of models for these lines are deliciously hilarious and handsome, and the clothes are equally gorgeous.  So, I procured some looks from each and tried them on at home to see how Marcus responded, as I also like to look well for him.  He appreciated the Renaissance, but the Cavalier duds inspired a rather wolfish grin, and so that settled it.

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Me.

 

Nearly.

I had one further person with whom I had to clear the decision–Marc’s assistant designer and junior partner in JS Designs, John Smythe.

John, you see, is a Puritan.

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John.

 

I know what you might be thinking–but he works in fashion and with Marc of all people.  How does he handle the constant allusions to battle and sex and paganism and sexy pagan battles??

Well, it turns out that John is such a phenomenal craftsman and truly good person that Marc keeps it all toned down for his benefit.  And it also turns out that John is a rather progressive Puritan–he still uses antiquated speech and dresses quite simply (loose white shirts, khaki capris with lots of hooks for tools, and tall boots) but he also enjoys seeing his visions play out on the runway, giving away the money his leather-work brings in, and living in some comfort with his husband, Benjamin, also a Puritan.  I’ve also heard him drop the F-bomb.  Granted it flew out of his mouth when he was nearly hit by a car, and he submitted to a week of penance over the whole deal, but he still said it.

Anyway, Puritans and Cavaliers are like water and oil, and I very much didn’t want to offend him with my choice, even if it is just a playful one. So, I went to ask him his permission.

He gave me a very tight lipped once over and said, “Do what you wilt.”  And then a bit more kindly he added, “Thou art a good man.  Clothing is but clothing, after all.”

I nodded and said, yes, it’s all just a bit of fun.

This concerned him.  Fun.  How suspicious.  So he added, “But as thou partake of fun, do be wary.  Thou shouldst take care not to let the Cavalier ways of mind and manners of person affect thee.  They are a lascivious lot.”

And I said, John, darling, the H.M.S. Lascivious set sail years ago.  Which got another tight-lipped once over with a bit of a wince thrown in, but he just shook his head and waved me off.  “Go and have thine…fun” he says.

(I desperately want to play “Cards Against Humanity” with him.)

In any case, now all that’s left is to sign with my new designer–Rrrrrrichard–and then it’ll be mustard coats and armoured breast plates and a vast number of boots.

Boots everywhere.

Quite looking forward to it.

The House that Jacques Built

Just recently fell in.

I’m not terribly surprised, mind you.  It has always been a bit touch and go with their home, and I predicted back in October that it wouldn’t survive another Canadian winter.  Look, I said to them.  I’ve built an entire home from the ground up.  And to other homes I’ve added storeys, reinforced floors for heavy machinery, added switchback stairs.  I’ve even built a goddamn stable, and I’m telling you, this house is about to cave in.

Jacques calmly looked at the holes in the ceiling, the splintered support beams, and said, “…nah.”

Except, “yeah.”

Now, I don’t really fault him.  He had every reason to procrastinate acceptance of the inevitable. He and his husband Ed have lived at that property going on thirteen years.  It’s the first place they felt settled post-mortem.  And if you are the sort of ghost that needs to feel settled (as opposed to Marcus and I who travel frequently) then that first location onto which you map your energy becomes your home, even if happens to be a clearing in the middle of the woods or a stop sign in the middle of New York City or a crumbling ski lodge, as in the case of our mates..

The ski lodge edges right up onto a forest, which is quite lovely and private.  It’s not grand, but it’s spacious, with an open floor plan downstairs and long narrow hallways with luxury guest rooms on the upper with worn carpets and lamps and a bit of that hotel feel left over.  And the fireplace…ohhh, the fireplace.  It’s still standing, that stone monster.

‘ome sweet ‘ome

 

When they moved in, it was still in relatively decent repair, but over the winters, without any upkeep, it started to sag.  And then lean.  And then fall in.

So what options does a ghost have when his house bloody topples?

Well, ghosts with homes–unlike outdoor ghosts–need that sense of containment.  In fact, they often map their energies onto the walls and structures, becoming, in a way, a part of the house itself.  Ed and Jacques had been there long enough that they had also used their energy to patch the holes, create some semblance of a working kitchen, and–their big splurge–purchase an energy television (more on those at some point, promise.)

But not this. Let’s just be clear on that.

 

So, the first thing they needed when all of that collapsed was an immediate sense of containment elsewhere.  Naturally, Marcus and I swooped in, picked them up, and took them to our flat, where they had visited before and felt at ease.  Ed, especially; Jacques is a bit more independent these days.

Then, as they healed from the shock, they had to decide between three options.

1. Move to another home.  With the first one in a state of utter disrepair, their “tether” of sorts could reset, and Jacques has been hoping to move further into Toronto for a while now.

2. Stay at the abandoned home and make repairs.  Not that ghosts can actually repair materials that exist in the realm of the living, but we have advanced techniques for building with energy.  This would allow the blokes to reconstruct the frame of their old home in energy, and then simply ignore the caved in spaces, traipsing right on through the broken walls and window frames.  We are ghosts, after all.

But these “repairs” require a lot of construction permits, a lot of ghost gifted with retention abilities, and a lot of energy, which, on the quota system, functions as our “money” as it were.  You can certainly wander through ghost world without any of this nonsense, being something along the lines that alivelies think of as a traditional ghost, but Ed and Jacques decided long ago to live as alively-like as possible.

3. Stay at the abandoned home, living on the side of the resort that didn’t collapse as fully.  Ed was all for this option–almost frantically so, since they haven’t the energy to reconstruct–but Jacques found the idea distasteful, especially since he’s been working two years now and put aside enough for a down payment.

After about two weeks in our flat, they were looking frazzled.  Jacques managed to get Ed out long enough to tour one Toronto loft, but he went a bit weak about the edges at the prospect, I hear, and so Jacques rushed him back to our flat and resigned himself to living in rubble.

Which is ridiculous, of course.

There was a good deal of awkwardness about the whole thing.  Jacques is a proud man, and he didn’t want take money from us.  Marcus managed to get him to sign a “loan” which we will treat as no such thing, and then got him very drunk.

Then Jacques had to contact the project manager at the lead Toronto reconstructionist firm.  Normally, it would be a matter of luck that he works for them.  But the CEO is currently in the process of divorcing–rather, being divorced by–our mate Delphi, so talking to Denis was about as fun as taking a sharp stick in the eye.  Marc went with for moral support, and because Denis has never had the stones to stand up to Marcus, despite the man’s astonishing ability to be nasty to the rest of us.

That settled, construction began, with Edward standing aside and watching the whole thing with such a look of relief and starry-eyed hopefulness that Jacques couldn’t help but melt into the process.

He even decided to add a skylight.  And Marc decided to upgrade the telly, because they both like to bow before it and scream at American football matches.

So, it’s true, if Jacques had admitted the structural unsoundness earlier, we could have thrown up energy retentions to it at its old lean.  If you ever see an abandoned structure so close to falling in that you have to marvel at it’s ability to do otherwise, you better believe the dead are involved in that small miracle.

left

There be ghosts.

But this is certainly a close to an “equal best” option, as Marc says.