Since the beginning of 2018 I have been thinking about climbing the ladder. Not a literal one – I’ve already put the Christmas decorations back in the loft – but a metaphorical ladder. The thought came about from a conversation I had on New Year’s Eve with Sam Kaye, a friend and fellow writer.
You see, he suggested we both become Lords.
On some level this resonated with me. Perhaps it was due to coming from Cliftonville, one of the highest regions for poverty in Kent, or maybe just from growing up in Thanet and knowing how difficult it is to overcome the barriers people face around here.
According to a State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission late last year, Thanet comes in at 275th place for social mobility, out of 324. That makes it one of the lowest areas in the country for social mobility opportunities. When faced with those kinds of odds, the only sensible option seems to be to create your own opportunities. At least, that was what we were considering as we toasted Auld Lang Syne.
“Think about it,” Sam said. “You could be Lord Reilly. Imagine the benefits!”
I tried to, but other than ordering a new bank card that replaced ‘Mr’ with ‘Lord’ I was struggling to justify the idea past massaging my own ego. Sam launched into an impassioned speech about unquestionable reservations in restaurants, invitations to dinner with local dignitaries, and the chance to issue decrees that must be read out by a Town Crier, and I have to say he had me almost convinced. He was painting a comical picture, and in my celebratory state I was tempted, but I decided the best course of action would be to think about it instead of impulsively purchasing a title.
Now, five minutes of research show that all is not as it first appears. This is not a peerage, nor can one claim to be a Lord of the Realm. Instead, it is an honorary Lord of the Manor title that comes with dedicated land and a crest. Still, the idea seemed quite amusing.
I decided to mull it over for a few weeks, during which I discovered that many of my contemporaries hold odd yet distinguished designations: local author David Chitty is a Minister of the Universal Life Church, poet Connor Sansby is a Doctor of Time and Space, and Matthew Munson is Ordained in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems, amongst the writers of Thanet at least, that generating your own social mobility is fairly commonplace.
Speaking of local writers creating opportunities, an organisation I am proud to be part of, Thanet Writers, have announced they are now paying for accepted submissions of writing by authors and poets with links to Thanet. I think this is a fantastic initiative, as local writers can be paid for their creativity.
Considering 90% of markets do not pay, that puts Thanet Writers in the rare echelons that reward writers for their hard work. Not only that, but they have announced everyone who has already had work published will be eligible for payment, too. Thanet Writers have been publishing online since April 2016, so with a little basic maths it is easy to work out that the total amount they will be paying is very substantial indeed, and all that goes to writers with connections to Thanet.
Investment in the local community is something I feel strongly about. It is all too easy to take what you can and give nothing back, as the old pirate saying goes. In actuality, though, that phrase meant to drag in as much rope as possible when pulling a ship into dock, and not let up any slack. In a way, that turns the idea on its head, as the strain is on those ashore to prevent the ship – and those aboard – drifting out to sea again. I therefore decided that, should I become a Lord, I would reclaim that old piratical expression for the benefit of the community.
As it happens I was still in two minds about it, much like Janus is during the first month of the year. To offer some perspective I asked a completely different set of colleagues, who I work with when I am not writing, for their opinions, thinking they would be more rational. Their responses were to immediately buy themselves various titles as, apparently, doing so was “too good an opportunity to pass up.”
Finally I realised that the reason I had not dismissed the idea outright was that, as well as being an attractive prospect in its own right, the idea of ascending to the aristocracy via a short-cut loophole when one is from Margate not only devalues genuine titles, but is also something akin to sticking two fingers up at ‘nobility.’
Inevitably then, I must now admit to the world that I too am a member of the Landed Gentry, as along with my residence in Thanet I have purchased a country estate in Cumbria, and the title that comes with it. As such, I must introduce myself: you may refer to me as Lord Reilly, Your Highness, or Your Eminence.
Or you can just call me Seb.