Scene Cards

Just wanted to briefly celebrate the fact that I’ve finished all the scene cards for my first romance novel!

scene cards

There they are. Graciously transferred from word processing lists to actual note cards by my host, Alexander, who, unlike me, has legible penmanship.

I have two hopes for the project.  I’d like to a) finish it, and b) manage to make Geoffrey and I look, as dramatic adolescents, even marginally sympathetic.   Had I a time machine, I’d flick us both on the ear.

 

Hopeful Romantic

At one point, nearly…Christ, a decade ago, now, I attempted to write memoirs.

(Good god I’ve been a manifested ghost a long time.)

Initially, my host and I accumulated about 450 single-spaced pages, divided into sections regarding my childhood before I arrived in London, my young adult-hood as I approached marriage, my newly-wed years, and my years as a father.

It was all rather serious stuff—an accounting of a life, rather than the reliving of one.  This has largely to do with the fact that when I first manifested, I was rather a stick-in-the-mud, lacking in real personality and foisting this sort of agreeable, but utterly Victorian manner upon my host.

I understand now that ghosts long-dead and then suddenly manifested remember their public personas first, followed, often slowly, by their more poignant and complex memories.  Personalities fill back in over time.

Mine did, to be damn sure.  I flatter myself to think that my sense of humour is rather obvious, now.  I admit that my vices and penchants are equally as obvious.  And I’ve recovered my losses so that they might heal, my romance so that it might bloom, and my hobbies, interests, and tendency toward self-exploration so that I might grow.

The people who graced my life have become more real to me, as well.

Geoffrey, who I had thought to be my best mate, crawled into my bed and happily reminded me he was also my husband.  Marion, who I had remembered as my sweet wife, flew down off the mantle where I’d placed her and rightly berated me for idolizing her into inactivity, forgetting how far her radicalism went.  My friends, employers, and acquaintances exploded into colour and humour. And Jon, my darling boy, died again, forcing me to face my depression and to summon the courage to really, fully remember him—not only his giggles, his beauty, and his intellect, but also his stubbornness, his stark honesty, and his tendency to exhaust those around him with queries and challenges.

Naturally, I wanted to apply these correctives to my original memoirs, which had come to seem stagnant and false.  But by the time I had gathered enough of myself to consider such a task, Alex was deep into his graduate studies and fully immersed in the re-writing of his historical fantasy novel.  Oh, and I had, you know, remarried, become a father again, co-launched a fashion line, and taken on international modeling.

These things do quite fill a schedule, haha.

Then Alex finished his novel and sent it off for beta-editing.  He moved away from toxic environments to work on his dissertation in relative peace.  Marc and I settled into our business and charity, finding it all rather less bewildering.  Paces slowed.

I started thinking about those memoirs again…

Only now, I’ve been thinking…what if I wrote them as romances?

You see, one of the things Alex and I did have time for over the years was a shared love of m/m historical romance.  The plots!  The characters! The history and fashion!  It’s delicious, and sends me right back to my time in late-regency, early-Victorian London, curled up on a chaise, listening to Geoff read me poetry.  Hoping he’d put down the book and, um…well…

That’s rather the only problem with the idea.  Even just reading romance turns me into a fidgeting, blushing mess.  Not that I’m a prude—far from it, which is perhaps part of the hesitation to consider my amorous exploits in lush detail.

I mean, not far.  Far enough, though.  Oh, I don’t know…

But I’m determined to best the bashful, because in outline, the narrative thrust of the memories I want to share work so well for romance.  They’re funny, complex, lovely, sad, and triumphant.  And quite frankly, when I’m on my own, away from the fear of embarrassment, the stories fly out of my pen in such a way as to convince me of my need and ability to write them.

So, there it is.  I’m going to take a crack at romance novels.

On the site, that means you may be seeing a bit more of my Victorian life, as well as some recollections on the time—its politics, fashions, employment, operas, poetry, etc.  I hope that’s enjoyable.

You may also see new portraits from time to time, as Alex has agreed to sketch my loves, my friends, and their respective loves, who often became my friends, in turn.

And you might see bits of conversations, dialogue now, one supposes, as my compatriots and lovers were hilarious, lovely, sharply discerning folks who I’m convinced would like to be heard even now.

You will likely not see…um…saucy bits?  That sounds…anyway…

Let’s see how this goes, shall we?

There Goes the Neighbourhood

I believe it is fair to say that London is famous for its ghosts. And the ghosts for which it is famous are rather shocking in their behaviours. Bloody, screaming, running up and down halls at Hampton Court palace, stalking the Tower.

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This looks reputable.

But if you are a ghost in London, then you know that things are not nearly so unseemly.

Ghost London is actually divided into neatly demarcated segments. This wasn’t necessarily a purposely done thing, although we British do like things to be tidy and purposeful. It’s more so that like attracted like, era-enclaves settled and put down roots, generational (and temperamental) strongholds developed over time.

For instance, the most modern of London ghosts tend to live in up-and-coming Islington or Soho. The Victorian contingency have taken over Hyde Park and its surrounding streets and insist upon decorum and a schedule that follows ‘the season’. The countryside nearest the city belongs to squires and Civil War Royalists, who seem to engage in a great deal of publican culture. The West End is deliciously debauched and multi-generational. And so on.

You are welcome to try out any part of the city you wish, and live where you best fit (with a few stipulations). Sounds rather happy, right? And it is, in any many ways.

But for a ghost like me—a categorical oddity—it also means that finding a suitable address is a bit of a headache. Which is why I decided to contract with a realtor, rather than wandering about on my own.

I went with Kensington Ghost Realtors (KGR) solely for nostalgia’s sake. I think of Kensington and I think of a young and pretty-ish Victoria, and a bit of my own youth comes rushing back to me. I filled out a survey and they matched me with a young man named Oliver, whom I insist on calling ‘Oli’ much to his resignation.

They handed me over to Oli, it seems, because he deals with most of their categorical oddities.

What does this mean, to be a categorical oddity?

“Right. I’ve had just about this side of enough of that.” – The Platypus

Well, in this case, it meant the poor man had to find a home for a bloke who is openly gay (and a bit gender playful) but also well ensconced in ‘traditional’ institutions such as marriage and fatherhood; not quite Victorian but not quite anything else either; middle-class in life with no sort of name, but upper-class in death with a name and famous husband in spite of himself; creative but also introverted.

What the hell do you do with a ghost like me?

Well, we started with a long walk, chauncing about and ruling out a couple of neighbourhoods on feeling alone. And at the end of the day, much to my chagrin, I found that I was most attracted to the neighbourhoods that were on the fringes of the Victorian part of the city.

I do so hate to be predictable, but that’s only because I’m so predictable.

The second step, then, because of the stringent attention to social standing in these areas, was to calculate my entry point into their society, which would govern where I could (and would want) to buy.  Oli plugged all my information into a KGR system that tabulates your net social worth, balancing your alively achievements against those you’ve made in death

As I said, there are some stipulations.

I have to say, the discovery of this wretched system nearly threw me back out on the prowl. I spent enough of my goddamn alively existence climbing social ladders and eclipsing judgment to last me six afterlives, and I was not about to give the Victorian enclave the satisfaction.

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The way he holds his tea cup! He’d sooner murder you than eat quail, I’m sure of it.

But hold on, Oli said, think of who your husband is, your reputation as a model, your philanthropy, your net worth. I can almost guarantee, this print out is going to tell you to live wherever the hell you want, barring noble houses, and that you’ll be able to put everyone right out when you settle in the midst of their serenity.

Well, when you put it that way…

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Hold on, I’ve something for you right here inside my jacket. I think it’s…yes, yes it is my middle finger. Fancy that.

He hit enter.

And about three weeks later, I closed on an altogether far too large, far too expensive, Georgian-style home on Holland Park.

Now, this is going to be a sometime home base for me. I have no intention of moving away from Marcus and the children. (The very idea throws me into a panic.) But I do have some intention of re-entering London life, staying at the townhouse on and off during the season, and making my way into new circles, since so many of my memories of London are hideous at best.

I wish to use this home, in other words, to recapture some of the twinkling life and love that makes me feel close to the happier parts of my Victorian existence—the fashion of Geoffrey, the radicalism of Marion, the intellectual explorations of Jon. I want to make some new friends, be openly queer in a city that now allows for that possibility, perhaps even host some salons.

I’ve been none too reticent to air these wishes, either, which means that the invitations have been rolling in—curious, polite, and dangerous all.

As it’s the close of the season, most of the polite invitations will have to wait until spring, as will my opening dinner party. The rumours as to what such an event might look like build as I write…

And in the meantime, I have the winter to appoint the house, determine how and to whom I should like to rent rooms for those parts of the year that I am not in often attendance, and take up a few of the more interesting invitations.

Dear god I wish I had Geoffrey to help me make those selections—he would know exactly which houses I must attend to in order to build just such a persona.

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With no more than this much Byron.

As I re-enter this society, I will endeavour to keep you informed of the oddities it reveals and the ghosts I meet.

(For instance, I hear Walsingham controls new appointments of nobility, sending in his spies to infiltrate the season while he skulks about in the countryside. The raven on the edge of the duck pond.)

But for now, I think I shall take a turn about Kensington Gardens…in a fleur de lis frock coat…on the arm of a Roman.

Oh, this will all be so much fun.

Briefly on Marriage

Over the past day, as I’ve processed the momentous decision handed down by the Supreme Court, I’ve planned about ten different versions of this post.

In the first few hours of tearful realisation, I planned, of course, the post that was overwrought and emotional (I am a Victorian, after all).

In the next few hours, I planned a post that was celebratory and a bit righteous, which fed into a third version of the post that was even a bit angry or accusatory.

Then when all the surging emotions calmed down, much to my husband’s relief, poor thing, I started and then deleted about six different kids of posts that attempted to address the complexity of the issue at hand–each of which felt too pedantic, and therefore too egotistical.  You do not need me to tell you that there is still work to be done.

So, what I would like to say, instead, is this:

I have been in a privately committed relationship that lasted thirty years without legal recognition, and I do not think that it was any lesser for lack of documentation.

I have been in a publicly, legally, religiously sanctioned marriage that also lasted thirty years, and I do not think it was any greater for abundance of documentation.

I was in both of these commitments simultaneously, and I feel deeply that our polyamorous sensibilities opened up great and unexpected stores of love over time.

I have also been married to Marcus for four years now under a pactum nuptialis that invokes the Roman right for two men to enact matrimonio stabili et certo collocavit.  Although I look forward to signing a state-sanctioned license on our fifth anniversary for largely practical reasons, I do not think that our current situation makes our children illegitimate or our love any less fierce.

And so, I am celebrating for every sort of consenting couple out there.

I really, truly rejoice for the couples who rushed to the court house, for gay teens who can plan their weddings without fear, for children who will never grow up in an America where same-sex marriage is unrecognised.  And I also stand in firm solidarity with couples who wish to remain committed outside of the institution of marriage, for whatever loving and viable reason they have.

My queer politics demand that I be not only enamoured with the outburst of rainbows and weddings, but also supportive of civil unions, domestic partnerships, and well-crafted relationships built on desires that explore outside of monogamy or legal documents.

Let us all be gentle with each other.

Good Hair: 1840s Edition

A dear friend recently declared the following to be fact–“men had SUPER weird hair in the 1840s.”

In retrospect, I suspect she was goading me…she’s a professional costumer with a keen appreciation and respect for all past styles and modes and would never outright dismiss something as weird.

But in the moment, I took the bait.

Well what on earth do you mean by “weird” I asked.  I need some evidentiary proof, because I remember our hairstyles as being perfectly normal.

She responded with a series of pictures, and I said, still, I don’t understand what is so odd about these.  Other than the bloke who looks like a circus clown, these are perfectly dashing and well-suited for hats.

True, she says, hadn’t thought about the hat bit. But still…and then she threw down the gauntlet–“Half of them have Twilight hair.”

Oh no she didn’t.

So, in defence of the 1840s, I’ve elected to share the series of photos she sent my way, humanising each with reference to one of my mates, matching up hairstyles to indicative personalities to give a sense of who wore what and why.

*   *   *

Photos #1 & 2

young geoffolder geoff

These blokes remind me very much of my husband, Geoffrey–the one on the right, especially, as it was rare to find Geoff in an actual bad temper.  (Unless deeply disturbed, he only participated in dramatic bad tempers, worn like a cloak in a three-minute downpour.)  These men are also dressed to the height of upper-middle class fashion, whereas Geoffrey purposely had regency fashions made over to set himself aside from the herd.  All that said, the hair is just about perfect.  When I met Geoff in 1834, he was sporting something quite like Mr. Sulking.  And over the years he let his curls run a bit more wild, resulting in something alike to Mr. Happily Pensive.

And what about these styles is weird, I ask you!?  Shiny, coiffed, and obviously slicked with a light soap and extract of essential oil…probably rose or spearmint…mmmm.

Photo 3:

paul

This (admittedly handsome) devil reminds me of my mate Paul, with whom I had a love-hate relationship.  Paul was already well ensconced in the circle of friends I inherited once associated with Geoff, and therefore there was nothing I could do about his presence in my life.  How to describe the bastard…Well, his real name was Ambrose Anderson–The Honourable Ambrose Anderson–and we all called him Paul, anyway, for one of two reasons: half of us thought he was a right, cracking politician (PAUL-itician); half of us thought he cast a pall (PAUL) over the world wherever he went.

You can guess to which half I belonged…

This haughty style with painfully select clothing, diving lapels, and high hair shine achieved with the likely use of bear oil was one often sported by the aristocracy, particularly those who determined to make something of themselves, rather than coasting on name alone.  Paul achieved this look until he started to go bald at the deliciously young age of 25, and then he had to wear his hair more like the bloke below in the most obvious comb-over to ever comb over.

This style is also not weird.  Shave down the sides, and you have the modern hipster, for chrissake.

Photo 4:

theo

Aside from being the style for the balding, I also associate this style (but not the dour expression) with my dear mate Theodore, who had bone-straight hair and therefore couldn’t achieve the curled locks and pompadours of those with natural wave.  Theo wore this style a bit shorter, and instead of using oil, he used soap with a hint of jasmine.  The thing about soap, though, is that it doesn’t always hold straight hair, and so his fringe was always falling in his face, much to his annoyance.  It didn’t help that he wore a broad-brimmed hat associated with the traditional style of his German-Jewish family, and it was forever catching the wind and throwing things into disarray.

I happened to very much like his disarray and made every effort to cause it during the brief months we were together as a couple.  That’s all a terribly convoluted story, though.  The point here is, although this hair might look a bit odd now, it was meant to suit hats, peaking out around the ears and collar.  I find it charming on the right man, obviously.

Photo 5:

chris

This style, as you can likely see, was also meant for hats–curled at the ears and fluffed on top, while flattened at the temples, probably with macassar oil.  It was also the quintessential style of the solidly middle class, and therefore I associate it with my mate Christopher.  Chris was by far and above the most “normal” of all of us–he studied banking, wore a great deal of plaid and assertive muttonchops, played tennis and rugby and cricket and all that, and was straight as an arrow.  He was, to use a modern term, a “bro.”

That said, the man had depth.  He never once batted an eye at the rest of us and our collective inclinations, and he was a brilliant painter, rendering up strange pieces that I would now associate with the modernist style.  What’s this, I’d say.  Well it’s a bloody lake, he’d answer.  Then why is it so…squared off and hazy and purple?  And he’d blink at me and say some people just don’t understand art.

Photo 6:

jester

Aaaaand the circus clown.  No, I didn’t have a mate with this hair…”style.”  Who do you think I am?

However, the striped waistcoat and loud cravat do remind me of a partner Geoffrey had later in life–a chemist named Maxwell whose penchant for laboratory explosions transferred to his choices in neck ware.  Probably part of why they got on so well…

*   *   *

Twilight my arse…

Post the First

How pleasant, I think, to launch a new project on one’s anniversary.

Happy Anniversary, Marcus!

It is true, you can meet and be married, or re-married, in the afterlife, which is nye on the happiest thing I’ve discovered, along with the ability of ghosts to adopt children.  (More on our little devil and angel later.)

There are any number of ways that you can marry post-mortem.  Some couples go into death together, as is the case of our dear friends and JS Charities board members Charles and Rachel.  They drown together in a boat capsizing just before the Titanic and rather wish they had gone out with a bang rather than in a dinghy.  They keep their appearances at round about 80, maintaining that although they made fetching youths, indeed, they much prefer the wizened look of old age.

Our best mates Ed and Jacques–French Canadians–also died together but in a car accident.  They were not married at the time, but have since tied the knot, with their anniversary just two weeks after Marcus and I.

Other couples meet after death, in the same sorts of places one would expect couples to meet.  In coffee shops, on sporting teams, and often in support groups for new ghosts….maybe that last one is a bit unexpected.

My personal assistant, Danny, who is actually one of my dearest friends at this point, not only met his husband after death, but as Danny died relatively young (22) and quite ill, this also means that he met his first great love after death.  He also discovered he fancied men, as well as women.  I find both the ability to meet and marry, and the ability to self-explore, to be encouraging circumstances, giving me hope for other young ghosts who pop up too soon.

Marcus and I are in the re-married camp.  He lost his first husband Aulus at war, and his second, Rufius, at the time of his own death.  He had also been married twice to women–once by force (ending in divorce) and once by friendship.

My own track record is equally polyamorous, but more happily so.  I was married simultaneously to Marion, who I mentioned on my “about” page, and to Geoffrey, my schoolmate who set me up in the ways of romance, stayed close through my church-sanctioned marriage, and then reappeared as husband later on after Marion asked me over breakfast one morning just how long I had been in love with Geoffrey, and did he feel the same way, causing me to nearly choke on my porridge.

Given my utterly happy marriages, I was absolutely astonished when Marcus turned down my first marriage proposal.  Perhaps after just six months I came across as a tad bit unctuous, and perhaps he was surprised I would even ask after I spent about two of those months sulking about and wondering when he would move out of my host’s mental space, leaving me the hell alone.  Perhaps.

But in any case, he obviously came around to the idea.

And now here we are, four years in, and still–most days–relatively…blissful is not the right word.  Energized by each other’s company, comforted by each other’s embrace, and inspired by each other’s efforts.  He is an excellent father, a stalwart best friend, and he makes one hell of a cheesecake, which I get to eat precisely two times a year.  He is also batty for dinosaurs, sharks, Locke Lamora, his horse (Nox, or Noxwell as I call him), Christmas-time, fireworks, army drills, falcons, fast cars, and republics.

Oh, and for me. ; )

This post is dedicated to him–to my Marcus.  Amo, Juni.