And the Geek shall inherit the Earth…

It can’t have escaped your notice that I’m a geek. I make no excuses for this, I’ve have been a geek all of my life. Well, I make no excuses now, but this was not always the case. When I was young, a scared teen, I made lots of excuses, and I hid from my geekdom. Each time that insult was hurled at me I wanted to be like everyone else. That word hurt. So much.
I just wanted to be normal.

But I was never cut out to be the sporty cheerleader type, it just wasn’t me. I tried to have the right clothes and say the right things, the dumb things, the bland things… but I couldn’t be something that I wasnt. I didn’t have the hoards of friends or the cool social clique. I wasn’t invited to parties or allowed to hang out at the cool places.
I had piles of books, not sporting trophies. I had comic book characters, not gangs of friends. I had the library, not the school disco.
I tried to be the same, but I was different.
This was not a good thing.
Not then.

Time rolls forward (as timey-wimey things tend to do) and things change. Well, not all things, I’m still a geek – but today I’m not afraid of people knowing that.
And nor are others.
As a writer, I go into schools and I meet teenagers and they are seizing this word – geek – and laying claim to it with pride. It is no longer a fearful thing to be a geek, now they can stand proud and glory in their geekdom. Oh it’s not easy, and it never will be, but I have such admiration for these young people. They are doing what I never felt strong enough to do. They are standing up for their life choices and their intellect, being so very different and unique and I couldn’t be more proud of them all.
It’s good to be different, and it’s better to be weird.

This is the day after the country ground to a halt to watch the big five-o for a certain Doctor and never has geekdom been so powerful – or fashionable.
Today we celebrate.
Now all of us geeks can all stand proud and say “you go ahead and jump on our wagon, there’s room for you all, but don’t forget that we were here first, and we’ll be here long after Arcadia falls.”

Now the geeks have taken over. Look around you, we’re everywhere. We are the Whovians, Nerdfighters, Gleeks, Potter Heads, LARPers, RPGers, FanFic writers, Starkids, YouTubers and vloggers. Amazing people like John and Hank Green, Charlie McDonell, , Felicia Day,and so many more, all speaking fluent Geek. There are so many now that frankly you’ll have to ask a young geek to tell you more as I have trouble keeping up!
It’s a revolution, and it’s freaking brilliant.

In the acknowledgments of my book I dedicate it to every freak, geek, nerd, weirdo, storyteller and creative crazy. I pay homage to everyone who knows with absolute certainty that there is a world that exists out of the corner of your eye, and it’s different.
It’s very different.

So here’s to you all, and I celebrate the fact that we have taken that word back. Geek. That’s how you take the hurt out of words, by owning them.

So go ahead, it doesn’t matter what people think any more. I’ll be celebrating the glorious and multi-faceted world of geekdom to my last breath.
Say it loud, we’re geek and we’re proud.

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Tardis Destinations – Part Two

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Andre Beauchant – 1873-1958 – The Funerary Procession Of Alexander the Great. Tate Britain

In the second of my Tardis stops I’d like to take you to summer 321BC, but let’s not quibble over exact dates, she’ll find it. We are heading to Memphis to witness the funeral procession of Alexander the Great.

Alexander died, in failing breath and fever, in the ancient palace of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon sometime in the night between June 10th and 11th 323 BC. The Macedonians wept publicly en masse, and it is reported that the Achaemenid people shaved their heads in grief.

As is befitting when a God passes, plans were set in place to fulfil his desire to be carried to a resting place suited to his status. Alexander wanted to go home to Macedonia – but this required preparation.
First his body needed to be prepared for the long journey and Plutarch wrote that the finest Egyptian embalmers were brought in to preserve the physical form of the Godly figure. After this Chaldean embalmers were summoned to “make the body sweet-smelling and incorruptible.” The body was dressed in golden armour and draped in jewels before being placed in a sarcophagus.

To transport Alexander the 3000 km home to Macedonia a vast catafalque, or funeral cart, was constructed. It took almost two years to build and was covered in beaten gold, silver and jewels. The cart rested on axles made from huge tree trunks carrying massive wheels. The whole cart carried carvings of great beasts and around the sides were carvings representing the most heroic moments of Alexander’s short life. The cart was almost ten metres high and was topped with winged Victories. It was pulled by a team of sixty-four mules, each one bred to be the strongest of its kind and dressed in splendour with golden harnesses.

The funeral cortège travelled along the banks of the Euphrates and then headed east. All along the route the road was prepared, and thousands of people came to witness the passing of the golden carriage. Behind it trailed thousands more – Alexander’s most devoted warriors and followers.

The procession continued to a point near the coast at Alexandria ad Issum (now Iskenderun in Turkey) and here is where we meet it. At this point there is a hinge moment in the story. It is unclear why the decision was made to wait, to delay the journey whilst they decided to travel on by sea or take the longer route by land.

Waiting was fatal to the progress to Macedonia. Ptolemy arrived with a vast army and met the funeral procession and seized the cart. He may have believed that it was Alexander’s wish to be buried at Siwa, and so he took over the funeral procession steering it south – overland to Egypt. He wanted to create his own Alexandria, the final resting place of the God amongst the Gods of his own kingdom.

A glorious ceremony was given as the cart arrived in Memphis where it remained for some years. A worshipped golden monument to the warrior’s past. The tomb was visited by many kings, and became a place of pilgrimage and a solid representation of Ptolemaic power. Eventually the reverence faded with the passage of time and, with the rise of Christianity, the tomb became more of a curiosity than a place of devotion. With Alexandria becoming a key Christian city, the old pagan temples in the city were sacked, and the body of Alexander lost. The golden jewelled carriage, and the body of the warrior king of Macedonia were lost, and has never been found. The resting place of Alexander remains lost.

But the moment that we travel to is that fateful day on the coast. The see the brilliant blue of the sea and sky against the dazzling opulence of the glittering golden carriage as it slowly rolled into Alexandria ad Issum. Surrounded by crowds eager to catch a glimpse of the already fabled procession of the body of Alexander. To see the funeral procession at its most swollen and the cart hauled slowly by jewelled mules harnessed in gold and red. The noise and music of the crowd as the procession set up camp on the shore, resting to allow the people to witness the glory of Alexander’s travelling tomb. To be there to see the arrival of the armies of Ptolemy as they marched from the desert to surround the carriage and lead it on, south to the great cities of Egypt and to Memphis.

That’s our moment.

Tardis Destinations – Part One

This will be a recurring theme on my blog. I’d like to introduce you to some of the amazing sights that we have missed out on simply by being born too late.
If I had a Tardis, these would be the places I would visit….

To start us off – Cafe de L’Enfer, Paris

L’Enfer was an infernal hell-themed establishment, with a heavily sculpted demonic facade. It opened in the late 19th century in the fashionably seedy red light district of Paris and rivalled the Moulin Rouge in attracting the dangerously decadent young set of Paris. The scandalously rich and glamorous young Parisians who managed to secure admission to L’Enfer enjoyed devilish drinks and even more devilish company. The clientele spent evenings with many “attractions diabolique” but, as the evenings were deeply clandestine, little is known about what this entailed.

It is known that the waiters were dressed as devils, and the doorman (Satan, of course) welcomed members with a cheering “Enter and be damned!” The interior was elaborately constructed to resemble the pit of hell with demons and tortured souls reaching out from the ceiling to those seated below. Those who entered were warned (by capering imps dressed in scarlet) that the heat inside the inferno would make them thirsty, and so they should be prepared to drink well…and be wicked.

By the early 20th century the Cafe had vanished, the facade stripped and never found again. A few fragments remain from the interior and can be found at the Musee de la Magie in Paris, but the rest is confined to whispers and stories.

What happened at L’Enfer, stayed at L’Enfer….

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