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?

Drugs after Death

Let’s say, hypothetically, there lived a Victorian man named Eliot Smyth.  He was a pleasant enough chap, but on the whole, rather subdued.  So, he took a shine to alcohol when out with friends, because it enhanced his extroversion, inspired conversation, and led to small adventures.

He may have climbed the statue of Queen Anne outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral and toasted her with a bottle of whiskey.  He may have streaked through St. James’ Park.  He may have targeted any number of other saints in his frolics, come to think of it…we’ll never know for sure.  Purely hypothetical, you know.

Let’s say this Mr. Smyth also discovered opium, laudanum, and hash along the way, because why not?

Let’s say this Mr. Smyth was, in fact, a recreational drug user with a penchant for seeking out safe but surely world-altering experiences.

Now…

Let’s also say that this Mr. Smyth died and became a ghost.  And once a ghost, he realised three rather important things:

First, when one is a ghost, the risk of death by misadventure decreases significantly.

Second, in the years after his death and prior to his manifestation, the alively world created a vast number of new substances.

Third, in order to experience these new substances, all one had to do was borrow the happy memories and best trips out of vast memory banks, find a suitable club, and summon up instant bliss, just prime for personal variation.  Instant legal bliss. (See realisation number one, and consider its applications to bodily autonomy.)

What would you do, if you were Mr. Smyth?

If you said that you would find yourself a fantastic club full of blinky lights, collect the memories to match little pills that make you feel like velvet houseplants are touching your eyes, and switch out your cravat for leather trousers, you’d be accurate in your estimations of Mr. Smyth’s character.

Now suppose, hypothetically, of course, that Mr. Smyth was having a rather excellent trip that resulted in the belief that he was, in fact, a mushroom.  Leather pants wouldn’t do at all for a mushroom, right?  So he locates another gent on the dance floor and suggests they should switch trousers on account of said gent wearing suede–much more mushroom suitable.  Gent says, by all means! I’m actually a snake! I think leather would be perfect!

Trousers are switched.

And let’s suppose that the following morning, Mr. Smyth watches footage of the trouser exchange on his husband’s mobile, shakes his head at himself, and giggles into his cereal.

But later in the day….more footage comes in.  Along with a memo from Mr. Smyth’s PR firm alerting him to the ongoing Twitter auction for a pair of his leather trousers worn home from the club by one @YASSLAYJOSE.

Mr. Smyth may have swaddled himself in Victorian attire at this point, picked out a stuffy book, and considered the merits of clean living.

AND LET’S SUPPOSE that this bloody Twitter auction ended at $80k Canadian for a pair of damn trousers.  And Mr. Smyth had to pony up for the quid, to keep the designer of said trousers happy.  Mr. Smyth also had to take meetings with his charitable board of investors, who allowed he should blow off steam on occasion, thank god.  And Mr. Smyth also had to contact each of his contractual designers and explain the situation to chortling fashionistas, as well as apologise to his mentored models, because while drugs are legal in Ghost World, they are still surrounded by bullshit moralistic tripe.

So…depending on the sort of person you are, and whether or not you become a ghost, these suppositions could read as either a cautionary or curious tale.  Choices between libertarian and sober lifestyle will be entirely up to you.

I think I shall keep my boots laced and my cravat tied for at least another little while, as dealing with hypotheticals can become rather time-consuming.  And I promised my PR consultant a vacation at the winter holidays…

A Note on Tea

I wouldn’t say I’m a technophobe.  I am typing this out on a lap top, after all.  I understand the necessity of having a mobile to take pictures of one’s children, and, I suppose, to make calls.  And in life, I was, among other things, a press mechanic.  Even after I moved into editorial roles, when the machine broke down, the boys came looking for me to get it back into sorts or summon the proper engineers.

However, there are some things that simply do not require technological advances.  That suffer under the weight of dials and knobs.

One of those things is tea.

Do you know how to make tea?  Boil water, pour it over a black tea bag or leaves, and let it sit until the water can stand up on its own? Add milk? Yes?

tea

Yes.

But apparently, the makers of the BKON (pronounced ‘beacon’, as though they are god’s light to the tea world) didn’t get the memo.

Let’s refer to the BKON as Mr. Vacuous, to dilute its apparent power.

I first met Mr. Vacuous when Alexander took a job at a local tea store.  He sat silent that first day—a black box glued to a paper-stone counter, staring at the front door to the store as if mentally preparing to inflict himself upon future customers.  I paid him no mind, overwhelmed as I was by the 101 flavours of tea in the store.

101 flavours!  Jesus ‘English’ Christ himself knows perfectly well that one needs a breakfast assam and an afternoon blend and nothing more.

And they make cold teas, too.  COLD TEA.

The second day, the owner of the store began to fit Mr. Vacuous with his component parts—rubber seals, a vacuum tube, a handled basket that fits underneath the tube.

The third day he turned it on…

…and thus unleashed the apocalypse.  If we are now making tea inside of a vacuum, the four horsemen cannot be far behind.

Mr. Vacuous sucked the tea leaves from the basket up into his tube.  He created a seal and removed the air from the tube.  And then he used some scientific algorithm to mix exact proportions of hot and cold water to hit the ‘proper’ temperature for an oolong, pushing the water into the leaves into the empty air spaces.  He brewed it in sixty seconds flat.

Where is the decency, I ask you?  Where are the black teas?  The five minute steep time? The spilled leaves on the counter, the cussing at the pilot light on the stove, the five a.m. blur, the desperate wait for the steep to finish?  Where goes the tradition when Mr. Vacuous sucks the air out of your tea?  Where goes the flavour of tar when he brews a ‘perfect’ cup?

I am appalled.

The damn thing brews white tea (fluff with a bit of flavour), green tea (grass), oolong (wanna be black tea), and herbals (caffeine free piles of uselessness) in addition to our Lord and Saviour’s Assam.  Cross pollution if you ask me.

And it brews so quickly you have no chance to watch the amber color sway into your cup.  No chance to forget you’ve made tea, happily resulting in a sludge-filled cuppa that begs you pray for absolution.  No chance to spill, to burn, to revel in the life that is tea.

Mr. Vacuous is just that—vacuous.  Absent.  Antiseptic. An exorbitantly priced erasure.

And so far, in the first three weeks of Alex’s job, only once has a customer stood up to his wiles and asked for a traditional steep.  A pot, an infuser, a bit of boiling water, and a good god-damn black tea.

A true hero, that one.

Mr. Vacuous even holds sway over Alex…it’s sad, so sad, but true.  He’s even considering the purchase of a programmable hot water heater to have at home now, having ‘discovered’ oolongs and greens.  It’s awful.

But…Mr. Vacuous will never sway me.  I shall continue to take my black and white cuppa straight off the stove, thank you very much.

I humbly implore you to behave likewise.

Ghost Telly

When you look at the ghost population, the numbers are greatly skewed toward ghosts who lived without television.  I would say a full three quarters of us lived before the advent of television, and at least half of us lived before such a thing even seemed possible–before electricity, radio, or monitors.  And yet, the GCN (Ghost Cable Network) is by far and above the most profitable segment of the entertainment market, attracting more users than all the libraries, museums, and galleries combined.

When I first saw this statistic, I did have a bit of a fit, lamenting the poisoning of the human mind, the laziness of entertainment seekers, and the death of imagination. I became determined to be a bastion of Victorian entertainments.

The lofty ones, mind you.

But there was a problem…

As it turns out, ghost libraries, museums, and galleries are few and far between.  Not because they are undervalued–on the contrary, their rarity assures they are constant sites of pilgrimage–but because they are difficult to fill, maintain, and use.

If you want to read a book that you did not read in life, you must find a library where someone has checked in the memory of that particular book, download the memory, and “read” someone else’s interpretation of the piece, which may or may not be accurate.

reader

“And then the clown looked at Mr. Darcy and said, I can play your birthday party, but it’ll be $500 plus travel expenses.”

If you want to view a painting, similarly, you must go to a gallery that has purchased the viewing memories of a plethora of artists and interpolated them into a fair representation of the original piece.  Famous paintings look fairly accurate–Mona Lisa still smiles–but lesser-known artists are difficult to find on the walls and harder to faithfully represent.

Ecce_Mono_-_restoration_of_Ecce_Homo_by_Elias_Garcia_Martinez

Not entirely a ghost problem.

Museums have greater success on account of the fact that ghosts are excellent identifiers of artifacts-cum-things we used in life.  But even then, there is a hitch that keeps us from full appreciation.

The hitch: Items and experiences with electrical impulse are far, far easier to see, share, and use.

This explains why, as I wondered, and you might be wondering, ghosts do not simply go and walk around alively galleries.  When we do, we see a mere shadow of what you are able to see.

It also explains why television and film and live theatre have become our wild successes.  We are able to actively share these spaces and experiences with alivelies, because not only can we see movie and TV screens, but we can also watch the outlines of great actors, and their electrifying emotions.

[Remember that time you were alone in a theatre? You were not alone…ohhhh, yes, we saw it all.]

theater-105573_960_720

I know what you did last summer.

We can also easily channel your viewing experience for display on the GCN, taking whatever electrical and digital codes make up a show, and mirroring them in our world.

After a while, even the bastions of Victorian entertainment wear down.  You can only peruse so many grey-scale walls in galleries you once knew before you say, fuck it, I’ll just watch Dance Moms.

We all know the real star was Chloe.

But as it turns out, television is not the brain rotting ridiculousness that a certain segment of ghosts warned it would be.  Sure, Lifetime is full of sap, the reality TV shows run rampant, and Friends has its own goddamn channel, but I was amazed to find shows of real quality, as well.

Not only that, but ghosts also make their own versions of alively programming–Deathtime (still full of sap), Dead Friends (still full of Joey), Days of Our Afterlives, etc.–which are quite hilarious.

And we also make our own entirely original shows, such as How Did You Die?, FUNerial, and this bizarre cartoon called Adventures of Birds where Fire Eagle and Steve Sting (a hawk with a scorpion tale) fight mythical creatures with the help, this season, of Raven, hard-boiled PI and birdseed fanatic.

[Who would come up with such a cartoon? Marcus Brutus.]

Not all bad.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that these digitisation projects that have everyone so up in arms are actually making books and artwork more accessible on the other side.  Maybe throw in a buck or two next time you visit a library doing a scanning project or a museum with interactive maps and displays.  My children (and yours) will thank you.

Society Debut

The bad news: Editing is taking my host far longer than he thought it might.

The good news: He’s restructured his approach to afford time to other endeavours, and I once again have leeway to keep up my blogging.  Huzzah!

And the timing could not be better, because, oh, do I have news…

The townhouse is appointed, the china is selected, the menu is set, and the invitations are sent:  I’m coming out, May 1st.

It’s a fashionably late coming out, to be sure. The season started with a bang round Christmas, and it’s only to run until the end of June.

But the London ton, as I have been informed by my realtor-cum-informant, Oli, feel quite a great deal of forgiveness toward my late entry, on account of my involvement with another season–that of fashion.

Were I simply lazy, or shy, or reticent, I wouldn’t have received a single invitation to turn down.  Since I am hard-working, philanthropic, and glamourous…they’ve been  gracious with my regrets, and willing to wait and gossip and RSVP to my dinner in the affirmative.

I suppose I am grateful?

But there was also some not-so-small part of me that hoped everyone would just throw up their hands and ignore me.  As it turns out, I’m painfully shy in personal settings, despite my time on stage and runway.  The thought of inviting perfect strangers into my home, with the goal of rendering them otherwise over the course of one dinner, terrifies me.

Two things keep me from turning tail.

First, as always, my husband.  Not only did Rome have its own sort of season, in which he was well-versed and well-known, but also…I’ll be damned before I run away from something while he watches.  The look on his face would be just too much.  And even if I bollocks something up, he’ll be there to smooth things over and redirect attention.  (To be sure, the ton is quite taken with the idea of a Roman in their midst.)

Second, Lord Akeldama.

I think I may have mentioned my obsession with this vampyre elsewhere on the site, or at least my obsession with Gail Carriger’s steampunk comedy of manners, which so delightfully skewers and celebrates the London season in turn.

But if not, you’re hearing it now.  I am so taken with Lord Akeldama, rove vampyre of steampunk London, that Alex had Miss Gail sign his portrait for me at a recent meet and greet event in Seattle.

akeldama

Akeldama on the right, in all his frilled and fluffy glory.  (Biffy, another of my paramours, on the left.)

I about died again.

And then, in a fit of confidence, I trussed myself up in a silk dressing gown, poured champagne, and opened a stack of new invitations to closing parties.  I even sent a few RSVPs–mostly to houses that seem like fun (Nell Gwyn, my god!), but also to a few conservative soirees, which I plan to attend in full velvet dress clutching my son’s teacup piglet.

I also finalised the details for my dinner, sent out one last round of looking-forwards, and reviewed my full guest list one last time without feeling like to climb under the table and cry.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what my coming out party will look like, in a nutshell:

5-8 pm: cocktails and crudites in the ground floor reception spaces (first floor to American readers).  These are done up rather Victorian, with dark wood, rich reds and blues, and pops of white and gold that draw attention to the windows and bookshelves.  I’ve hired a string quartet to play for this portion, as well as (handsome) doormen

8 pm: introductions.  Marcus and I come downstairs with the children, introduce ourselves around, and go up to dinner.  Traditionally, I would send the children to bed after introducing them, but I fear the wrath of Mira more than I fear the wrath of society, so they’ll be eating with us, and Mira, at least, will attend the first portion of dancing.

8:15-10: formal dinner in the first floor dining room (second floor,  Am.).  Menu items include Roman grain salads, a Roman-London hybrid fish plate, a London beef main (with beet option for the vegetarians, such as myself), and ices.  This portion of the home is lighter, with the reds and blues faded to rose and periwinkle, with pops of green and grey and the addition of Roman elements, such as ferns and columns.

10-2: dancing in the third floor ballroom (fourth floor, Am.), and open viewing from the rooftop terrace–both very modern spaces with clean lines, chrome, and glass. The string quartet will return for the first portion of the evening, and then round about midnight, I’ll re-introduce the two doormen as the first of my in-house modelling/runway clients and do a quick turn with them on the catwalk, finishing out the evening with a band and last rounds of cocktails.

Second floor of the home (third, Am.) is off limits.  This is our family space, divided between children’s bedrooms and the master suite.  And we’re also not utilising the garden floor, which is where my client-boarders reside–two at present, but five rooms total…more auditions over the summer.

And that’s it!  It’s all rather posh, but I’m becoming resigned to the idea that I am, in fact, a bit posh these days.  My blushes…

Will be sure to post how it goes.

Ghost Therapists

For the past six years, Marcus has laboured assiduously to learn the English language.  He’s been downright fearless, immersing himself in any conversation that presents itself, and he’s been steadfast, drilling note cards in the mornings, working crosswords in the afternoon, and regaling me with “word-a-day” vocabulary over supper in the evening, all while reading his fool heart out, tackling books like the warrior he is.

And until very recently, I put off the study of Latin.

I assure you…I’m not proud of this fact.   Every time he says something in Latin, some little phrase that I know I should be able to commit to memory, that I know I’ve heard before, and yet it escapes me, I feel guilty and ashamed.

The guilt surfaces out of lack of effort.  I’ve done many, many other things to be the best possible companion for Marc, but on this point, I’ve faltered.  I failed for years to even try to understand the language of his inner thoughts and of his beloved Roma.

And the shame…well that’s a bit more complex, and it brings me to my central point.

Ghosts can hire therapists.

We can hire therapists to help make sense of our deaths and to help make sense of our lives. We can hire therapists who specialise in types of death, we can hire therapists who specialise in certain age groups, and we can hire therapists who specialise in certain eras.  We can even hire therapists who specialise in passing you on to final death.

Jasmine is mine.  She’s a fucking saint.  And although I have no intention of passing on–I’m quite enjoying the afterlife thanks very much–I do have every intention of working through all the shit that followed me when I died.

1_therapist

Let’s start with…Jesus, I don’t even know, the first time you had to eat a rat??

To be sure, this was not my original intention.  I lived before psychology, counselling, therapy, when the going advice was to just push things aside and soldier on.  And so I assumed I would do the same now.

But through a round-about series of intersections, I came to know Jasmine, and she came to know me, and now I’m coming to know myself.

In particular, I am coming to know that I must be more self-compassionate.

To return to the Latin, for example…

As it turns out, I did not have an affluent childhood.  I had the opposite of an affluent childhood.  I didn’t see an actual book until I was twelve years old, I didn’t really learn proper reading skills until I was sixteen, and I was still making my own flashcards to cement spellings long after I was married.

Not that I wasn’t a quick study–I was–but I was terrified that such speed made the whole endeavour out to be a fluke.  I thought that if I ever stopped reading or writing, often frantically so, that I would lose my ability to communicate with the people who had become my world.  The world of polite English and conversational French and polished, scholarly Latin.

To make matters worse, I was convinced that even with a burgeoning vocabulary, my accent botched the whole thing beyond repair.  I spent years perfecting my disguise, only to have it slip in moments of great emotion.  The cockney streets or the Yorkshire almshouse were always just over my shoulder, no matter how much Keats I devoured, no matter how many articles I edited for the paper, no matter how many times I read aloud to my son.

And there are other things in this hodge-podge pile of shame: the fact that Latin reminds me of the Catholic church and my assinine mother-by-law; the fact that the study of languages reminds me of having to literally sing for my supper–music being the only college scholarship I had even a remote possibility of winning; the fact that my son surpassed my language skills by the time he was four, entering into a world of code that I could never be a part of.

It gets a bit overwhelming.

But having Jasmine around to remind me that I lived, succeeded, offered lingustic opportunities to my son, culminated university with a literature degree aside my music, ran a press, etc….well it helps immensely.

And her gentle reminders to take a breath, to address the underlying trauma, and then to raise my head above it…that helps immensely, too.

It also helps that when I finally cracked a textbook in 2016, Alex agreed to patiently study Latin alongside me, moving at my speed, and granting me partnership.

And, lets be honest, it helps that my tutor is a Roman dreamboat, and that through his own series of self-explorations he has come to own his affluence and privilege and a childhood full of words, and to grant me the patience I need, thus making my study a gift, not a demand.

Togato,_I_sec_dc._con_testa_di_restauro_da_un_ritratto_di_nerva,_inv._2286

Look, I’m not saying we *must* play strip conjugation, I’m just saying the word ‘conjugal’ had to come from somewhere…

So, to close on three points:

1) Thank heavens for professional problem-solvers.  If you are at all concerned by your place in the world, or within your own mind, please, go get help.  Please don’t wait for (or god-forbid seek) the afterlife for your chance to fix everything.  Live fully.

2) That said, thank heavens for ghostly therapists.  If you have someone who left the world in turmoil, know that they have opportunities to seek aid.

3) And, thank you for this opportunity to speak truthfully, and to hold myself publicly accountable to my new efforts with language.  Mille gratias et bonam dei.

The Ghosts of Christmas

If I had to rank the pinnacle moments of my Victorian life, they might look a bit like this:

1/2: My marriages and the birth of my son
3 (but really sort of edging into 2 territory): Drunkenly shouting “youze a fuckin’ tosser, that’s wot” at Charles Dickens as he left a pub on the Strand

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Charles_Dickens_3.jpg

Pictured above: A fuckin’ tosser

But as much as I hate Charles Dickens, he did have one thing right—Christmas is full of ghosts.

In fact, Christmas outranks Halloween for sheer number of ghostly visitations.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Not only does our One World Government release a very special set of rules and dispensations for holiday visitation rights, making it as easy as possible for us to return home to our family and friends, but also alivelies are much more aware at the holidays of those they’ve lost, and those feelings are amplified by gatherings and collective memory. Taken together, even low-energy ghosts can manage an entry.

That’s the good news.

The bad news—I did warn you this site wouldn’t be all sunshine—the numbers are falling every year.

Now, let me be clear.  This isn’t a personal call for help. I’m ethnically Jewish and pragmatically athiest…I have never been, nor will I ever be, a bastion of Christmas. I didn’t particularly care for the holiday when I was alive, and, as my manifestation was very long in coming, I don’t have Victorian family or friends to visit now. This post isn’t really about me.

It’s not really about my husband, either. Although he’s crazy for Christmas, that’s primarily because he loves decorating. He actually celebrates Saturnalia and Dies Natalis Invicti Solis.

And honestly, this post isn’t really about my children. Mira visits her family sites on her walk-about in August, and Jeremy was too young at his passing to remember where he lived for any sort of pilgrimage. He’s also afraid of “ghosts”—the energy outlines he sees around the living—and prefers to remember his alively parents by giving himself whole-heartedly to his ghostly family.

So, really, this post is about you, and your loved and lost.

Even though I don’t feel particularly moved by the holiday, I feel moved to share with you the best possible practices for making your visitations happen. So, in no particular order, here’s how you can help us reach you:

1. Physically remember your loved ones. Put out an empty plate for us at the table, hang up our stockings, or incorporate us into your traditions. My mates Jacques, Ed, and Danny all swear that these sorts of gestures hold even more meaning than birthday remembrances.

2. Emotionally, or prayerfully, remember your loved ones. When you say grace, don’t forget to mention us, or when you raise a glass. Take time to sit and think ofus, the more collectively the better. And, if you can, do so with joy rather than with sadness, although we ghosts completely understand that difficulty—we miss you as much as you miss us.

3. Forget about the sodding presents. Forget about Starbucks cups, Reeses trees, being holier than your neighbour, having the best stuff, being the most demonstrative. If you’re celebrating Christmas, then at some point you were taught that the whole bloody thing is about a family coming together. Do that. Be a family coming together, and make room to welcome those you’ve lost.

4. Share stories with the next generation. Nothing is sadder than when a ghost finally has to admit that their family has gone on without them—that their children or grandchildren forgot to pass their memory on. Love your ancestors as much as you love your descendants, and make sure they have a chance to meet.

5. Celebrate with awareness.

6. Listen to the children around you. We have a much easier time reaching them, so take their moments seriously.

7. Write us a card or a letter—we can’t always read the words on the page, but they will clarify your intent, making it easier for us to feel your presence and vice versa. Likewise, sharing photographs, or leaving albums open, is helpful.

8. If you feel so moved, leave a general sign that we are welcome. This is particularly helpful for older ghosts who have become a bit lost in the evolution of family tradition. Recognised signs include things such as candles in the window, swept hearths or porches, or signs of the outdoors brought in—the tree will obviously work, but depending on where you are in the world, any other mindful piece of nature will suit.

And that’s about all of it, I should think.

Oh, except, do be gentle with yourself and your loved ones. If you don’t feel surrounded on this Christmas, hold out hope for the next. It isn’t always easy for us to reach you, even with intentions full-tilt, often because ghosts, when they first arrive, are just…exhausted. Dying is hard work. Give us time to rest and we’ll do our best to reach you.

Happy practising.

A Lighthearted Ode to *My* Queen

Dear Queen Victoria,

I regret to inform you that as of the 9th of September, 2015, you were surpassed by your great-great granddaughter as the longest reigning monarch.

I know…I know how much you loved titles. And in comparison to your ill-advised tenure as the Empress of India, this was a rather innocuous one for you to hold. So, in light of the distress which you would likely feel upon this loss, I would like to offer up the following ten reasons–in no particular order–that you shall always be my Queen.

  ***

1. When Marion and I married in 1837, she wore a white and cream gown with a red sash. When you wore a white gown at your own wedding a few years on, it made Marion look like a serious trendsetter and she garnered a full season of attention as a fashionista. We both pretended not to care. We cared. It was smashing. Thanks for the white dress.

2. Furthermore, your wedding brought Prince Albert to England. I’m sure you’d roll over in your grave to know what a service that was to gay blokes all across the isle, but thanks for that, too.

3. You cared, in your own royal way, about the poor. Much obliged.

4. You helped pave the way for companionate marriage. No one ever doubted you loved Albert or that he loved you, and the affection you showed each other served as an example to multiple couples I knew. And it made Marion and I (#lovebirdsforlife) look a little less odd.

5. You put the country back in the hands of an intelligent woman, which has always worked well for England. That in and of itself…brilliant. (In fact, I recall quite clearly the early morning cannons announcing the death of the King. Marion sat up in bed, perfectly still, and whispered, “Elliot, the King has died.” Then she sighed and turned her face to the ceiling. “Thank god there’s a woman back on the throne. I shall sleep more soundly.”)

6. You celebrated advances in the arts, literature, and medicine, along with Albert, who threw us that fantastic Crystal Palace Exhibition. Watching the royal family care so deeply about education was a balm to my son who been often bullied for his intelligence. No one can argue with “Victoria and Albert like science, too!” and for that I am deeply indebted.

7. You were also a balm for my incredibly outspoken, incredibly short wife.

8. You supported and fostered the careers of Mendelssohn and Tennyson, two of my absolutely favourite creatives.

9. You irritated my mate Paul.

10. I don’t care what people say. Surviving as long as you did in the age of cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and wicked difficult childbirth is a true achievement, and by god, I think that adds an honorary five years to your reign. (To be extended should Elizabeth make it another five years…)

***

Signed, Your Obedient Servant, Etc.,

EJS

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.