I went shopping today. This is not something I do very often, never have. As a youth, I would sometimes accompany Mother on shopping trips to Chatham or London. For some inexplicable reason, she valued my opinion on clothing, soft furnishings and such like. Plus, I could carry the purchases, which may have been the main reason. Then, as indeed now, the only form of shopping I considered a pleasure in itself was shopping for books. Everything else was necessity. Shopping has been a rare activity for the past few years; shops not being a major feature of Mysthaven. But, today, I went. Initially, it was just for the novelty, but, as it turned out, there was a better reason.
The place I went was called the Fantasy Faire. Gwyn has often spoken of this place, and has often returned with gifts of clothing and other items for me, but I have never been myself. I had to realm-hop to get there, which was easy enough, once Gwyn gave me directions. After that, I was on my own. The directions she gave me took me to a dark wooded grove, which didn’t look overly promising for shopping; however, but it seemed that it was some kind of terminus, with portals to take me to other shopping areas. I have never liked portals as a means of travel, but the only other options seemed to involve a long walk, so through the portal I went, to a place that proclaimed itself to be called The Rose.
The Rose turned out to be a rather attractive place. There were graceful buildings in vibrant pastel shades around a lot of canals, with stone bridges and staircases to get around. It put me in mind of the Canaletto paintings of Venice as much as anything. Inside the buildings were the shops. For a while, I just wandered, making note of things that I might want to purchase. There were few things I considered necessary, but quite a few that would be nice to own. As I was wandering, I paused to read some of the notices, and then I discovered something. I discovered that this place had a higher purpose than pure commerce and the pursuit of profit. This was a charitable concern. The proceeds of these items, this grand sale, were destined to fund research into cancer. I had to admit that I had little personal experience of cancer. The consumption, I know only too well, for it took my mother from me, but cancer is something I have had little experience of, although I have known others who have lost friends and family to it.
And yet… Somehow, it resonated with me, but in some way, outside of me. I paused a while, by one of the bridges to think more on this. What were these other thoughts, which seemed to come from outside of me? I am not a religious man. A church-going man, yes, or at least, I used to be, but that was a matter of social obligation rather than belief in any god. However, it has seemed at times, that there is some other hand, guiding and steering me, and this was one of those times. Perhaps these thoughts did come from outside. And so, for once, I took time to listen…
Hi there. I am Ian, the person that usually hides behind this red-headed, mild-mannered accountant, this warrior poet. I am not a god, by any means, but, I suppose, in the sense of being the creator of Nathaniel, I am possessed of some god-like abilities. At least, from Nathaniel’s point of view.
Why am I here, sticking my head out from behind my warrior poet, breaking this fourth wall?
I am here because of Cancer. It is something that we know a hell of a lot more about than we did in Nathaniel’s day, but there is so much more that we need to learn, so much more that we need to do so that we can fully understand cancer, master it, and defeat it.
Cancer was not something that touched my life until I was older. I experienced death, of course, in my family, but aside from one fatal fall down some stairs and one heart attack, members of my somewhat extended family died of old age. Cancer did not touch my life until some 16 years ago, when it took one of my dearest friends, Hilary, at the too young age of 37. Like her mother, grandmother and an aunt before her, she fell victim to breast cancer. We fought it, oh how we fought it, by means conventional and unconventional, and for a while, we thought we had beaten it. But, it had metastasised and it was that which killed her. Nothing will fill the hole she left in my life, but I have my memories of her and I am supremely glad to be a part of her daughter’s life still. She also lives on, in a fashion, in some of my other writings, in characters that are partly based upon her.
More recently, I lost one of my oldest friends – my best friend at university, John, who I met in my first year and had remained friends with since. In his case, it was a catastrophic reaction to treatment for lymphoma that took him, but I still ascribe that to the cancer, since he would not otherwise have had to endure that treatment. He left behind a wife, children and grandchildren and another hole that can not be filled. He has not yet found his way into my writings, but I am sure that he will someday.
More recently still, I lost another friend, Joe. Joe was the husband of my dear friend and fellow writer and blogger, Gwen Enchanted, the creative mind behind Nathaniel’s in-world wife, Gwyn. It was her recent blog entry on why she takes part in this Relay for Life that inspired this entry. Joe was also a victim of lymphoma. Again, he fought hard, but eventually it took away one of the funniest, smartest and kindest men I have known, and made my friend a widow far too young. He too has found his way into my writings, honoured in the name of a bar that will play a part in future stories.
Those people, and others, more distantly connected, including a friend I only ever knew in Second Life, are why I am here, coming out from behind Nathaniel for once. Letting Nathaniel go shopping, and buying things that he probably doesn’t need, and possibly a few things he doesn’t even understand, not being a man of the 21st century – yet – is the least I can do, because that way, I can contribute in some small way towards the fight against Cancer, by helping Relay For Life to raise money for cancer research. One day we will understand it, master it and defeat it. One day, stories like the three I mentioned above will be a thing of the past. Until then, RFL and other organisations will do their best to bring that day about, and I will do whatever I can to help make that happen. I hope that you will too.
I’ll hand you back to Nathaniel now. Thanks for listening. Go spend money at the Faire, it’s on until May 4th.
I blinked, and blinked again, looking around. I was still here in this place of stone buildings and canals. Yet, somehow, time had passed between blinks of my eyes, and all I had were echoes of another voice, echoes of loss, of sadness, of determination and even optimism and hope. Perhaps the voice belonged to that guiding hand, if such a thing can exist. I don’t know what it might be guiding me to, but there remained an impression that something needs to be done. What, I do not know. I am no scientist and I am no physician, but, I could spend my money wisely, so that those who are scientists and physicians have the funds to do their works. I looked around. There were plenty of shops yet to explore. And this was only one of several portals that remained to try.