My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Cawdor Castle - 2017 Visit

Last year, Raven took me to Cawdor Castle for my birthday. I wanted to post about it nearer the time, but I lost my SD card with the photos I'd taken. I've been there ::before::, and the first time I was there, it was with the HTC smartphone that didn't have a good camera at all, no proper camera, and in dreary weather. This time, it was May, the weather was bright and sunny, and I made sure to bring a camera with me. Raven also took a lot of photographs while we were there, so there's plenty of photographs from him in this blog! If I find my SD card, I'll do a second post about this trip with my photos on it. I'm really grateful to Raven for letting me use his photographs; I'm really sad about having lost my SD card, especially as it had more than just Cawdor Castle on it. I took a LOT of photographs of the castle building itself, and I really wish they weren't lost.

Photos in this blog-post are in a carousel gallery - if you click on a photo, it will enlarge, and you can navigate between photos with the arrow keys. I've had a couple of messages about 'tiny pictures' so I thought I would clarify. 


Photo by Raven of me walking up to the castle
Cawdor Castle was initially built as a defensive castle in the 14thC by the Thanes of Cawdor. It's since become more of country mansion house with later, less defensible extensions, but it has a rich and interesting history. This time, we went inside the castle as well as seeing the grounds, paying the extra entrance fee, so I got to see more the castle and learn about the castle history - which is my favourite reason to visit castles! You can visit the official Cawdor Castle website ::here::

When I temporarily had blue hair!
Selfies by me. 
I went on the trip during the time I had ::temporarily blue hair::. I keep ending up with unintentional blue hair - I've currently got unintentional blue highlights in my black hair because the black dye is not quite as opaque as I imagined, and also doesn't adhere so well to where my hair was previously green. However, in this instance, my hair turned blue after I washed it, and had originally been green and purple. My current theory is that it's because I'd been using dandruff shampoo, and some ingredient in that caused it to wash out certain pigments from the dye, leaving the blue. 

The first thing I did at the castle was go and get a hot chocolate, and I think either a pain-au-chocolat or a savoury muffin - it's been over a year, I can't remember what I ate. I do remember that whatever it was, it was tasty! The hot chocolate was rather yummy, with frothy cream and marshmallows - a more luxurious hot drink than my usual tea as a birthday treat. 

My hair nearly matched the cup. Photo by Raven 

Photo by Raven, edits by me.
Once thoroughly refreshed, we went for a wander around the castle. Near the entrance to the cafe, I spotted this alcove. As well as looking out of the window at the castle grounds, and being impressed by the immense thickness of the walls, I persuaded Raven to take some aesthetic pictures of me.

The gatehouse has had to repel those who would attack the castle, so its sturdiness is not just for show. One of the daughters of the clan at Cawdor - 9th Thaness Muriel - was at the centre of a lot of clan dispute when as a teenager she was married off to Sir Campbell. It got very 'Game of Thrones' with battles, kidnaps, plots and Thaness Muriel surviving her husband, living 30 years longer than he did. (You can read about that ::here::, just scroll down to Muriel Calder). If you think the fiction of Macbeth is dramatic, then just look what was actually happening in Cawdor a few before Shakespeare.

I actually don't remember this part of the castle, but it's pretty
Photograph by Raven 
We went around the castle interior first. The castle is still lived in - by the current Lady Cawdor, so not all the rooms can be visited. There's a route through some of the castle that is opened up, with guides at various points who can be asked questions about the castle. I remember we bumped into some American tourists who were just as excited about the castle as I was (and who liked my outfit; I think I got called' Lady Macbeth' in a complimentary way.) and both they and I asked the guides plenty of questions. There was an older chap as a guide and he was incredibly knowledgeable about the castle. I perhaps asked too many questions, but I'm a glutton for knowledge.

Palantir-esque orb
Photo by Raven.
There are a lot of spherical ornaments in Cawdor Castle - I think this is an aesthetic choice of the current lady Cawdor, as she commissioned several of the spherical statues in the castle grounds, and it is by her desk that one of the larger stone/crystal orbs resides. Raven took a photograph of it (to the right, click to enlarge thumbnail image). There's also one in one of the visitable bedrooms that is in a stand that makes it look like Palantir from Middle Earth. There's also an ORIGINAL Charles Addams drawing which I got completely over excited about. I don't have a photograph of that. (Lady Cawdor's art collection is intriguing, and I have so many questions in my head from it!)

There's a really fabulous room, with a tree growing in it, and an adjoining 'secret' other room that had been walled up for a long time. I don't have a photograph of it - it's something I tried hard to photograph, and there might be pictures of it on my SD card, but in the meanwhile there's a picture of it on the ::Cawdor Castle website::, second one along, click to enlarge. The tree is part of a legend about the founding of the castle. The Thane of Cawdor, whose earlier medieval castle was not too far away, wanted to build a bigger and better, stronger fortification. He had a dream in which he was instructed to put a chest of gold upon a donkey's back, and then to follow it to where it lay, and build his castle there. He did this, and the donkey went to lie down under a hawthorne tree, which the castle was built around - the tree is still there, growing through the castle basement, protected as the family's prosperity is thought to be linked to the tree. I keep saying British history is very much like Game of Thrones, but in this case it's more like the Shannara Chronicles.

Historic Kitchen at Cawdor Castle, photo by Raven

Photo by Raven. 
Looking at the historic kitchen was interesting. All those copper pots and pans! It's intriguing to see what utensils they had then compared to now - some things I have no idea what their purpose is, some things that haven't changed much, and some things that seem obvious by their absence. What was even more interesting is that one of the last things you go through in the castle, once you've been through the historic kitchen, is the modern kitchen - presumably for when there are private functions (I'm going to guess Lady Cawdor doesn't let hundreds of visitors walk through the same kitchen her dinner is cooked in each night!).

I really like the recessed windows from an aesthetic perspective - I'm guessing they are small and in such deep alcoves because the kitchen is in the basement, and the castle needs really thick, sturdy walls at that level to hold up everything that is above it, especially as it was defensive. Small windows means less of a void in the wall, and less of a space someone could climb in through - however, wide alcoves means more light as light can enter the room from a variety of angles in relation to the window.  
Modern Kitchen at Cawdor Castle, photo by Raven

Photo by Raven.  Click to expand
In front of historic kitchen window
The comparison between the two definitely makes you think about how much the functional aspects of the castle have changed, and the expected requirements for a kitchen. As an architectural technologist, and one that would like to work on residential properties, things like the types of room that have been used for kitchens over the centuries is something that interests me - for example, the historic kitchen is long and linear, almost in a basement, and with the well in the room, (Not visible in the photograph, Raven would have had his back to it when he took this picture) whereas the modern kitchen is in a much squarer room, and a storey up from this kitchen (I think? It's hard to judge when the various phases of the building aren't all on the same set of levels) - both rooms are relatively bright, with lots of white, but the modern kitchen seems much airier, even though it has dark wooden panelling - perhaps because the ceilings are much higher (high enough to be out of shot!). It's also interesting to note the HUGE copper canopy for the extract fans in the modern kitchen - no such thing centuries back, so it would have been much steamier to work in! 

Raven's really into cooking, so I think he also found the two kitchens quite interesting.


Maze with minotaur (left) and castle (right). Photograph by Raven.
There's a hedge maze (or labyrinth?) at Cawdor, but when we were there, it was closed to visitors because the roots of the shrubbery needed to recover from repetitive trampling. However, it was visible from outside, as was the mythologically suitable minotaur in the centre!

Formal gardens, before their peak, in a cloudy moment. Photo by Raven.

Walking with parasol
Photograph by Dave
After we looked around the castle as much as we could, we then went out to the grounds. Last time I went to Cawdor Castle gardens, we walked mostly through the woodland walk area and didn't go through all of the gardens, but this time we went to the gardens. In the Highlands, early May is more springtime than summer, so the gardens aren't as green and luscious as they probably are in later months. I should probably actually go there around this time of year to best appreciate the gardens! That's not to say that there wasn't greenery - as there was, it's just that the trees, hedges and shrubbery weren't at their maximum foliage. 

The weather was quite bright - not hot, but warm enough that a lacy shrug was enough to keep away the chill. However, it was definitely bright enough for sunglasses and parasol (well, to me at least, but I think I have a low tolerance for bright light.) for most of the day. There were cloudier moments, too, but when the sun came out again it was really quite bright.

Spherical fountain, photograph by Raven. 
As mentioned before, there were several spherical garden statues/fountains at the ground. A really interesting one was made of shards of stacked glass, but I lost the photographs I took of that. The stone sphere fountain in the photograph was made by a Japanese sculptor, and there was a matching crescent moon shaped statue - I think the fountain represents the sun. It's an interesting mixture of modern art and a historical castle and grounds. I think the natural stones helps keep the fountain fitting to the site. 

Pond opposite ticket booth/entrance. Photograph by Raven
Cawdor Castle has two main areas of laid out gardens, and then plenty of grounds, wooded and more pastoral, beyond that. There is a lovely pond near the drive and ticket booth, which Raven photographed. It looked most picturesque, a wonderful capture of springtime, especially with all the white tree blossoms. There are more ponds in the woodland area, but I didn't go there that time - they are also very pretty, especially when viewed from the wooden bridges. 

Photograph by Raven, edits/filters by me.
The last photo from the Castle is me sitting at a small picnic table near the ticket booth, I think having just finished a carton of apple juice or something, and discussing with Raven what the rest of our plans would be. For some reason, sitting there was probably the thing that stuck most clearly in my head. I think it was because I looked up at the new leaves on the tree above me, and the sun, which was quite bright, was glowing through them, so they seemed so incredibly vibrant, almost glass-like. It was later in the afternoon by that point, as we had spent a good few hours at Cawdor Castle, and I tweaked the colours in the photograph just a little to try and best capture what the light felt like when I was there. Sometimes you have to bend reality a little to capture what something feels like.
 

Raven and I together, phone pic by me. 
As far as birthdays go, I think last year's was one of the best. Sometimes a trip out is better than a party (especially if you're more introverted like me. I end up poking my phone at my own parties because I get 'peopled out'!). Going to Cawdor castle was Raven's treat, so I'm very thankful to him for taking me (even over a year on!). He took me out to dinner, too (which, just before, is when I took the selfie of us together - hence the different makeup and outfit). Raven is very much the romantic, and I'm eternally grateful to him for all these years together - as well as Birthday trips out!

Also, this blog would be much less aesthetically pleasing without his photographic talent! Not just this specific entry (which would just be a big wall of text about how much I like Cawdor Castle otherwise), but in general - he's taken so many of the photographs of me for this blog over the years, and they're always really flattering. I don't look half as good in my own selfies - let alone real life - as I do in Raven's pictures of me. He's got a knack for composition and posing that does well to minimise my many physical flaws and highlight my better features (so, less turkey neck, more cheekbones) and even manages to take pretty pictures of me when I'm not trying to pose (those probably turn out better; I pose awkwardly when I know I'm being photographed) 

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Glasgow Cathedral & Necropolis: A Very Gothic Lolita Meet

Graves through the trees, last
 time I visited. Click to expand
Last month I went down to Glasgow for a meet-up I was very excited about - a visit to the Cathedral and the Necropolis. It was organised by the moderator of the Scottish Lolitas group on FaceBook. Originally it was supposed to be for a guided tour on the Saturday, but it was re-arranged for the Sunday, which means we didn't get a guided a tour, but we were there for choral evensong rehearsals! I've been to Glasgow Necropolis before, once a few years back (when I had no idea how to style my wigs, or what boots suit what outfits... so I won't link back to that one!)
Getting to Glasgow from Inverness is a good 3+ hrs on the coach from Inverness, and I don't even live in Inverness itself, so I had to travel to the city first, and Lolita is not the most practical style of clothing for travel! For the most part, I kept my impractically high heels for photographs, and switched to ugly but comfortable trainers (more about how this didn't work out later on). The weather was really quite bright, and I started doubting my choice of an all-black ensemble to wear! It had been cloudy and overcast in the Highlands, but the weather got warmer and sunnier as I travelled south to the central belt.

I made some attempts to get a few photographs of the stunning Scottish scenery taken out of the window. I really like looking out of the window on long coach and train journeys, but I always end up wishing I could stop off at all of the interesting places and explore - one of  the downsides of not being able to drive is I can't go off on my own detours!

A rather tall and craggy hill, not entirely sure where

One place I'd love to go on a detour to explore is Ruthven Barracks - I managed to get one moderately clear shot of the Ruthven Barracks out of the coach window. It used to be the site of a castle (presumably Castle Ruthven?) but due to the Jacobite Uprising, the Hanoverian government built an imposing barracks over the site to station troops. It was part of a rather bloody section of Highland history. 

Ruthven Barracks from the road, photo out of a coach window.

I did my make-up partly on the coach - probably not the smartest idea, but I don't think it worked out too badly. Trying to do my lipstick was the hardest bit, so I waited for the change at Perth, so the coach would be stationary, to do that bit. 

Black hair with blue highlights now! Veil to hide scruffy bits.
I met up with the other Lolitas at the Tempo tea shop, for some bubble tea, and then we walked up to the cathedral. I didn't realise how far the cathedral was from the tea-shop, and made the mistake of changing into my high heels at the tea-shop, and struggling to keep up with the group as I'm a) not supposed to walk in high heels because of my ankle injury, b) not exactly steady on high heels anyway because I'm dyspraxic and clumsy and c) it was roasting outdoors and I was overheating in my clothes. Now I know that there's a steep hill up to the cathedral, I won't be doing that again! I put my trainers back on to wander around the cathedral, because it is uneven paving and there are lots of stepped sections, etc. 


The Lolita group outside the cathedral, photographed by Meshya.
I'm wearing comfortable but ugly trainers, but hiding them behind my bag!
The cathedral itself is really stunning. It's a medieval cathedral, but it still has an active congregation. It's the cathedral of St. Mungo, who is said to be buried there, known fully as St. Kentigern (He's Cynderyn in Welsh). 'Mungo' is actually an affectionate nickname with its derivation in an earlier British language (I've read conflicting articles as to which one), apparently meaning 'dear one'. St. Mungo/Kentigern is the patron saint of Glasgow. 

[Random Harry Potter musing aside: There's a large and rather old hospital (it was opened in the 1790's) near St. Mungo's Cathedral, currently with a rather grand and ornate stone building from 1914 dominating the local area - I do wonder if the combination of the two were the inspiration for St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical maladies, especially as J.K Rowling lives in Scotland, but in Edinburgh, not Glasgow.]

The cathedral does have a few stained glass windows, but much less than I expected. I don't actually know why, but if I had been on the guided tour, that would have been one of the questions that I would have asked. I noticed that a lot of the stained glass was stylistically 20thC and had a lot of beautiful greens, blues and purples, especially one which I think might be the Millennium Window (I didn't get a good photograph, unfortunately), and I'd guess made in the late 1990s to celebrate the then-upcoming turn of the millennium. The cathedral was spared much of the more destructive aspects of the reformation because the local population stepped in to defend it, but maybe the windows were still smashed? - I do not know. According to the unofficial cathedral ::website::, the decision to put in stained glass was made in 1856, but it doesn't say why there wasn't stained glass previous to that, when in most other medieval cathedrals, stained glass was introduced centuries before, often right from the start, and one of the benefits of the Gothic style is how the arrangement of space and fenestration work really well with stained glass (I wrote a mini-dissertation for one of my graded units on this sort of thing last year...). 

These windows included stained glass, but my camera blew it out too bright.
Another thing I noticed about the cathedral is that it has a relatively cohesive design overall, and doesn't look like the sort of cathedral built in a lot of disjunct Gothic/Gothic-related styles in many phases over many centuries (eg. Canterbury Cathedral), but more like it was built mostly to one design, even if there's different ceiling designs in the main nave and the choir. It has quite a harmonious and balanced building because of this - no mismatched towers (like the basilica-cathedral of St. Denis in Paris)  or Romanesque arches beside late Gothic tracery, no buckled columns (like Salisbury Cathedral) or much later additions in Baroque or other Neo-Classically derived styles mixed in, no awkward 20th or 21stC modern elements stuck on.

It's a very large and long building, and I don't think ALL of it was built at once, but it is remarkably united and singular building considering its age, and that it was built between 1136 and 1197, which is not as long as some cathedrals and basilicas, but still more than 60 years. It's on a straightforward linear floor-plan, with one extension off-centre rather than a cruciform transept, and these two (the Blackadder Crypt and its above ground chapel are aligned with the south transept, and the boiler wing is off centre) are the only bits that seem outside of the original design - the sacristy/chapter house while not part of the main hall-shape building, does seem like at least a very old addition, and maybe part of the original design, or of the original construction phases. I've seen a floor-plan, and been to the building, and these are my educated guesses on the history - it's not something I've really researched, nor did I get a chance to ask a guide. I've got to go back there, with a note-book, and get some more information!

Pews with fabulous Gothic arches and trefoil designs.
There's a lot of stunning carved wooden furniture in the cathedral - pews, choir stalls, and things that can't really be called 'furniture' like the organ loft and the great pipe-organ itself (which I was privileged to hear played!). The interior is impressively Gothic - I guess some of the wooden bits are Victorian-era, probably Gothic Revival, but I guess in a building like that, it's less of a revival, and more of a continuation of an ongoing tradition of ecclesiastical art and architecture.


Memorial with helm, shield and sword
There are a few graves and memorials within the cathedral itself, too. I tried to photograph many of them, but the photographs did not come out well. One that did, however, was  a grave with an effigy of the person's armour rather than the person themselves, complete with ornate helm and sword. Looking at the date, it was more symbolic of knightly things than something they would have worn in battle, as the grave is much later than the styling of the armour displayed, but it's still a rather beautifully rendered monument.

Vaulted ceilings and concentric details on the arches. Best ceiling photo.
I think the most stunning aspect of the cathedral, however, are the vaulted ceilings. These vaults are structural, not just aesthetic, and are based around intersecting Gothic arches. I took an awful lot of ceiling photographs, but it was quite hard to get good ones on just my phone - I don't have the old HTC with the 'potato camera' but my Samsung is an older model, and it struggles to get pictures that are crisp and aren't grainy (and slightly off-focus) in low light levels - at least with the standard camera app; I've downloaded Lightroom now, and I might be able to get better shots by having more control over the settings.

I took a LOT of ceiling pictures but most were terrible. This one was passable
I actually got separated from the rest of the group because I got distracted by taking photos of the ceiling. When I looked down, everyone was gone! A French tour guide said what I thought was "sur les arbres" so I went out to the trees by the entrance to look for the rest of the Lolita group, but they weren't there. In retrospect, I think she might have actually said "sur les arches" and I misheard because the Cathedral is echoey and it was quite busy in there, as they'd actually gone to the crypt - under the arches. One of the group found me, as apparently the French tour guide had run into the rest of the group, too, and told them where I was! After we were all reunited in the crypt, I changed into my high heels again for a photo by a grand candelabra.


Photograph by Meshya. Very tall candelabra.
As we left the crypt, the choir had got into full swing of their rehearsals. I'm not sure which choir it was - most of the choristers looked the usual student age, so I'm wondering if they were a university/conservatoire choir, and there was a TV crew setting up around them. They were absolutely amazing! It was Renaissance style polyphonic church music, but with the organ accompanying, and it was something really special. Hearing them was truly wonderful, and coming up out of the crypt to emerge into this sound, with the two big banks of organ pipes flanking on either side, it was something mesmerising.

Byzantine-looking mausoleum and many monuments,
photographed by me, from the bridge, on my previous visit to the Necropolis
After visiting the crypt, we concluded our visit to the cathedral, and crossed the bridge over the road, to the necropolis hill nearby. Glasgow Necropolis is somewhere I have visited before, but last time around, not many of my photographs came out, so this time I tried to take a few more. The last time I was there, the weather was hazy and dull, very overcast, and so my photographs were all very drear - I deliberately accentuated this with the use of black and white. Scotland is famous for its 'dreich' weather, but it can actually be brighter and quite sunny, so all the photographs from this trip to the necropolis are full colour with bright blue skies! I thought I'd share the ones from the last time, too, though, because I'm a cliché and I appreciate the gloomy aesthetic. 


Another of the previous photographs - grey skies and many monuments.
Neo-Classical mausoleum
Click to expand.
One of my favourite things about the necropolis is that it was functioning for so long that it's a snapshot of changing artistic and architectural movements, and a reflection of changing funereal practices, not to mention the people who were buried and the various circumstances that the choice of monument reflects - those who buried by their next of kin, those with monuments paid for by the members of institutions and societies to which the deceased belonged, those with grand mausoleums, those more simple headstones... A cemetery is a history book encoded in stone and landscaping. I think I could go to the Necropolis a good few times, and with each time, learn more.

The Necropolis is also somewhere I could spend a lot more than a mere hour,  especially with a camera. I really, really wish I had a camera that worked at the moment - my cheap 'point and click' camera died (it had death spasms, with the shutter and zoom mechanism suddenly going through some random glitching motions and then breaking, before it expired) and the Canon camera I have on extended loan has trouble with batteries and charging... I just have my phone at the moment, and while the photographs are not terrible, but they could be so much better quality. A new camera is something I will have to invest in when I get a job!


I was trailing behind the group, photographing the monuments, but the group
are very aesthetic from behind, so that wasn't too bad! Note monument styles.
The Necropolis is also interesting because it also shows a lot of monuments that are both historical now, and were historically inspired when they were made, harking back to ancient Rome and Greece, ancient Egypt, Byzantium, and even a few with Celtic crosses, representing a late Victorian-era Celtic Revival. Plenty of Gothic Revival monuments, too, but interestingly, much fewer than at Inverness' own necropolis at Tomnahurich. Obelisks, and Classically inspired designs seemed most popular, partly because many are older, but also I think out of stylistic choice. I do personally think that there's something about the angular geometry and severity of some variations of the Neo-Classical that is severe and sober, perfect for sombre memorials.


An angel perched in stone. Photo by myself.
There were some figurative monuments, some with a statue of the deceased, some, like the one above, with angels. I quite like this contemplative angel - the plinth is huge and solid, and many of the neighbouring monuments are stones of similar forms, so it almost looks like an angel just landed there, on top of the stone, which I guess was the idea.


Graves through the trees. Photograph by myself.
The landscaping of the Necropolis is really quite park-like - apart from the paths and terraces, there are a lot of flowers and trees, and a lot of grass! One of the reasons I love graveyards (I wrote a whole blog on the subject ::here::). The cherry blossoms were in bloom - I like cherry blossoms in graveyards, because I think of Japanese sakura blossoms, and how they can symbolise transience, which is very fitting for a graveyard. There were also plenty of bluebells. Spring happens later in Scotland than in England, I've noticed, even later where I am. 

Lolita group participant in the shade beneath a cherry tree. Photo by me.

The Lolita group, myself included, took a lot of outfit photos and pictures of each other. While they took photos by some of the graves, I wandered off, not too far because I was back in my high heels and I am precarious in them, to look for interesting graves and vistas. I actually brought my cane with me, both to stabilise myself while wearing heels, and to help me walk once I had taken them off because wearing heels all day makes my ankles pretty sore indeed.

Lou Graves ( @gravelvet on Instagram) took this.
I looked pretty aesthetic while wandering off! 
I spotted a set of steps by some trees that were a good spot to get a tiered group photo so everyone could be seen behind everyone else, but unfortunately, in my high heels I was one of the tallest members of the group, so I needed to stand right at the top of the stairs! I was quite unsteady while trying to walk up the stairs, and getting back down was even trickier. Sometimes my eye for what might look good exceeds my good sense. 

LaFantome, who was the organiser of our meet-up. Photo by me. 
On the way down the Necropolis hill, I spotted a really pretty Gothic Revival monument. I don't often like posing with gravestones (and I've explained why in the past), but this time I wanted a picture of me with a monument because I just wanted a memento of having been to what is probably my favourite monument in the whole Necropolis - a very elaborate Gothic Revival monument with ivy growing up it. It's got so many of my favourite elements of the Gothic style - having a Gothic arch within a steep triangular gable, pinnacles, and having a screen of detached tracery. 


Me standing in front of my favourite monument, photo by
After the event, the others went to The Winged Ox, a restaurant in a converted church, but I needed to get back to the bus station for my coach home again, so I walked back to the bus station - getting some sushi en route. 

Sunset from the coach window
Overall, I had a very enjoyable time. Next time I will try and find some elegant footwear that isn't heeled and is comfortable but pretty, because swapping between trainers and high heels was just holding the rest of the group up each time, and got pretty annoying for me, let alone everyone else. The 'Tea Party' style flat shoes common in Lolita tend to look better with Sweet styles, and Gothic Lolita is usually worn with chunky high heels, so I'm struggling to think of a flat alternative that will still look elegant, especially as I have big size EU 42/UK8 feet! Any suggestions from Lolitas are welcome.

I definitely want to go back to Glasgow Cathedral, especially to do a guided tour - although perhaps I'd annoy the tour guide as I'd have a LOT of questions about the building! I also want to go back there with a proper camera to capture some better quality shots of the Cathedral's interior, especially the vaulted ceilings and the stained glass windows. 

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Experiments in Ouji: Leakey's Bookshop

This is more content from last year that I should have uploaded then, but didn't have time to do. It's a fashion post, and I guess analysing my outfits probably won't be of interest to everyone, but I'm trying to chart my journey as I improve at Lolita, Ouji, Aristo and other Japanese street fashions, which are a bit more structured and have a degree of expected polish that I'm not quite achieving yet. 

[Last year] My friend Luna hosted a meet up for the local Lolita community as part of her birthday celebrations, and I thought I would try wearing Ouji. For those who don't already know, Ouji is the more 'masculine' twin to Lolita fashion, with the name Ouji-Kei meaning 'Prince-Style'. I find this a little more comfortable and practical to wear than Lolita as it doesn't involve skirts with lots of petticoats. I'm wearing

☠ a cheap wig from eBay*
☠ 'Blood Moon' pendant from Alchemy Gothic (second-hand)
☠ Punk Rave jabot
☠ Punk Rave waistcoat 
☠ Bat lapel pin I bought second-hand
☠ Spin-doctor blouse
☠ Fair trade velvet wrist-warmers from 'FarFetched' in Inverness
☠ Red & black lace gloves (can't remember where I got them)
☠ Alchemy Gothic bracelet, can't remember the name of the bloody thorns set. 
☠ Belt from a charity shop 
☠ Vintage Marks & Spencer's trousers
☠ Boots from a charity shop.
☠ Nemesis now dragon cane. 

*bought cheap so I didn't feel bad messing it up with my first attempt at wig styling.

Not a vampire, not a library!
First set of photographs, taken by my Lolita friends.
There are two sets of photos, one set taken on the day, but which suffered from poor lighting as the book-shop is deliberately a bit dingy to make it less glaring for shoppers, and the second set taken a little bit later, when I was re-working the outfit. I asked permission from the chap who runs the shop if I could have photographs taken on the upper gallery, where there's usually fewer shoppers, and is a quiet and aesthetic part of the shop. Please check ::here:: for a pos tshowing the interior of Leakey's as a whole, and ::here:: for the Leakey's FaceBook page.

I changed which jabot I wore between the two sets of photographs - I liked the volume of the large Punk Rave one I wore in the second set better than the smaller hand-made one I wore in the first set. 

Second set of photographs of me at Leakey's

I definitely like where I am heading with the clothes, but I think it is my hair and make-up that is letting me down. One thing I have struggled with quite a bit for Ouji is my hair and make-up. It's quite a different style to that which I'm used to, and I can't use my 'natural' hair for Ouji because the bright green hair and purple fringe doesn't suit the aesthetic. I tried wearing a short-haired wig. The wig was a bit cheap, because I wanted to have a go at styling it, and I haven't styled a wig like that before, so I didn't want to spend a lot of money only to ruin it. If you look between the two sets of photographs, you'll see that for the second time I wore it, the wig started to slip off the back of my head - my natural hair is long and voluminous, and it was too much hair for the wig, and my natural hair was pushing it off. I didn't realise this until after the photographs were taken, sadly. I have two short term options: re-dye and re-cut my natural hair into something more ouji-friendly, or get better wigs, and get someone who knows what they are doing to style them for me. The long term option is to learn to style wigs better myself, which I intend to do, but as I don't wear wigs very often, I probably won't get regular practice. 



I think this shoes the problems with the wig best
I asked for some advice on an Ouji forum, on hair and make-up - and the other criticism (and a valid and constructive one) is that my eye-makeup could have been better blended; I agree - I did it in a bit of a rush, and it's quite different to what I would normally do, so I should have taken more care and blended it better. I also think the contouring I did the first time around was something I should have done again the second time around. The wig in the photo-above is very much awkwardly sat on my head, with the bulk of my natural hair sitting under it awkwardly. I'm getting my hair cut a lot shorter in summer, anyway so perhaps my wigs will sit better on my head then. 

I like how the outfit turned out. The blouse with the gathers midway down the sleeves and slight puff at the shoulders sits nicely with the waistcoat - I'm quite happy to have found a combination of cuts like that, where the waistcoat is just narrow enough at the shoulders to let the puff of the sleeves stand above them. I'm not completely sure how much I like that specific jabot with that blouse, as the jabot really requires a collared shirt to look best, and the blouse I was wearing actually has a neck-bow under the jabot instead of a collar; I left the bow undone to avoid bulk under the jabot and tucked it into the shirt, which was a bit awkward, even if not outwardly visible. The waist-coat originally had crosses on it, but I don't feel right wearing crosses as just a fashion statement, so I took all the cross  charms off the chains and replaced them with bat-charms and skull beads ands suchlike. The boots didn't originally have trim on them, I just got two types of upholstery trim and glued them to the turn-downs at the top of the boots.

The cane is from Nemesis Now, and is a lovely dragon - he has one red eye because I chipped the handle and the eye was damaged, so I put a little glass gem in the damaged eye. It's pretty, but it's not the best support because the handle is brittle, and I think if I had to lean on it too heavily, it might crack or break. I have anterior ankle impingement, partly caused by my hypermobile ankles, and partly caused by my over-wearing of very high heels (and falling off them, partially because I'm dyspraxic and thus really clumsy...), so often if I'm walking around a lot, I'll have a cane because my ankles can really hurt sometimes - effectively my shin bones and ankle bones are pinching. I've been told to wear completely flat shoes (hence the boots) and I've got physio exercises to do at home, but I'd like to save up some money to get physiotherapy privately and regularly. Anterior ankle impingement apparently can get worse to the point where you get bone-spurs or a kind of arthritis, and I don't want that! I'm probably being a little too paranoid about making it worse, but I'd rather be paranoid and overly careful than get careless and make them significantly worse.

One thing that was mentioned on Closet of Frills was that straight legged trousers is more Aristocrat than Ouji, and that puffy shorts are more suited to Ouji - in summer, when the weather is warmer I will definitely be wearing such shorts! 

Monday, 29 January 2018

Planning My After-life (But I'm Not Dying!)

This blog entry has been inspired by the works of ::Caitlin Doughty:: and the Order of the Good Death.

For a long time, probably since I went to my grandmother's funeral as a child, I've thought about how I'd like my own funeral to be. It is probably a total 'Goth cliche', but when other girls planned their ideal wedding, I was thinking less about white carriages bedecked with red roses... and more black horse-drawn hearses bedecked with white lilies. 

I'm not suicidal or dying or anything, and hopefully what I'm writing about won't be useful for a few decades still (my grandmother lived into her '90s, as did several of my more elderly relatives), but I think about these things anyway. 

Some people might find that depressing, but to me it offers the comfort of some level of control over the finality of things - how I'll leave my 'last impressions' on the world, what my legacy will be.  I guess it helps me also accept my own mortality and the finality of death (even if I joke about being an 'undead vampire' a lot!) and perhaps if I share my thoughts on what I would like to happen to me, then it might help clear the stigma about planning for what happens after your own death. Hopefully openly talking about, and blogging about, what I want to happen to me after my death, is a little step towards encouraging death positivity - a healthy acceptance of death and dying as part of the natural way things happen. 

It must be awful for the bereaved to have to try and plan a funeral as well as be in the early stages of grief, so I also want to have that planned out to save those who remain after me the hassle and bother of having to come up with an apt way to do those things, especially as it's probably quite clear to those who know me that I both admire some funeral traditions, and dislike others, and that it might not be clear to them which I'd want, and which I wouldn't without actually leaving some sort of document behind. Funerals can also be very expensive. Funeral plans exist, and there are ways to pre-pay for your funeral in advance, and this is something I really think people should look into. Monuments can also be quite expensive, and as I want something fancy (more about that later), I want to have mine made while I'm still alive, but I suppose it is possible to make other financial arrangements for a monument.

One issue for me is that I am most likely going to be the last of my immediate family. I couldn't have children even if I wanted to (and I don't) and with the rest of my family, I am either rather deliberately estranged, or much older, with the exception of my adopted sister. As such, other than my partner, I don't have much in the way of immediate family to plan things when I die, and that might make for some legal issues, whereby those who know me best might not be my legal next of kin, especially if I outlive my partner and sister. If I have things planned out (and potentially paid for) before my demise, it might make ensuring my wishes are carried out a bit easier. 

What happens to someone after death actually has a LOT of stages and elements, and I've pondered about a good deal of them. 

One thing I've been considering is what of me I'd donate to science. If there's any parts of me that are useful to medicine or science, I won't be using them any more, so I'd quite like to donate them - however, if I get mangled in a car wreck, I might not be much use for spare parts, but I might make an interesting scientific case-study for understanding exactly what happens if you get hit by the intercity coach or something, but that could also be something already well understood and researched, but if I gave my corpse up for research, I might not get buried at all! I also have spiritual thoughts about whether some of energy would linger on in whoever I get donated to, and that it's one way to live on a little after death, but then what if I would accidentally haunt the recipient? I have heard stories about people who, after transplants, started having eerie connections to their donor, and that honestly bothers me (although quite a few people reading this are probably rolling their eyes and thinking I'm being needlessly superstitious!). It's something I've pondered, and it's made me wonder exactly what bits of me I'd be OK with being reused, too. Perhaps the brain is the seat of our self, and to some it is the heart, so would it be better that those things decompose with the rest of me, to acknowledge the finality of me as myself being gone (I believe in reincarnation, but, to me, reincarnation isn't a direct transfer of consciousness), or would it be better to have my brain preserved in a lab somewhere so that something of what made who I am remains (and could be useful in studying eccentrics with neurological disorders!). It's not something I've fully made up my mind on - organ donation, and donation to science are both things I feel are a good idea, but the nuances of it aren't something I've finalised. 

I believe in reincarnation, a I mentioned above, and that our bodies are just temporary vessels for energy that goes through endless cycles of life, death and rebirth, so I don't feel like I need to have specific after death treatment to ensure a specific afterlife, and my beliefs in regards to such things as ghosts is that ghosts are real, and if you become a ghost or not depends on factors like having unfinished business or a particularly traumatic death, so that wouldn't figure into funerary rites for me. I know some other Pagan paths do have these traditions, and include things like burial goods, but I don't believe in a permanent afterlife place where I need to pack stuff to take with me. This leaves my funerary options a lot more open. 

To me, reincarnation is more like 'spiritual recycling', and in line with that, I also think that the natural literal recycling of a corpse into decomposed mush that feeds further organic life is important. This is the one aspect of what happens to me that I feel strongly about. I don't want to be embalmed; embalming fluid is bad for the environment, and I want to decompose properly. Tidied up so I don't look too awful at my funeral is one thing, but preserved is another. I have no need to lie 'in state' like I'm royalty or Lenin, and I don't feel like decomposition ought to be kept at bay, because it's part of the cycle of life - life feeds on the death of other things, that is how nature works, and if bacteria and the creepy-crawlies in the ground eat me, then that's as nature intended, and hopefully I'll fertilise the ground. 

Wanting a natural burial has many aspects - I don't want a plasticised casket full of synthetic fabrics and foam upholstery, I don't want to be embalmed, and I don't want my coffin to be made out of stuff that's heavily plastics-based or would otherwise not rot well - ordinary wood would suffice (wicker or woven coffins are another option, but they don't look traditional enough for me). That's something I'm very certain of. If my coffin needs to be fancy, they can put a pall over it and some nice flowers. I also wonder about how deep a natural burial should be - will it be 6 feet under, or is it more shallow so that the worms and bugs can munch? Do 'natural' cemeteries allow for monuments as well as trees/plants planted as memorials? Etc. etc. 

Another thing for me to consider is where I would like to be buried. Most of my favourite cemeteries have ceased to take new burials (and usually ceased to do so somewhere around 100 years ago), but most modern cemeteries don't have the same ambience as older ones, because tastes in memorials and headstones have changed (glossy stones, gilded letters, and one of three basic forms with some decorative etching seems to be the norm in many parts of the UK now) and many modern cemeteries I have visited are very linear, organised on a neat grid, and without the interspersing of shrubberies, landscaping and paths that some of the older cemeteries, that were organised, but still had a park-like feel (like Tomnahurich Cemetery in Inverness) do. Some of them seem genuinely depressing rather than simply sombre and reverent - rows and rows of very similar headstones with just grass, plastic flowers, and a grid of gravelled paths, which seems very impersonal, even with the personalised messages on the headstones. As much as I love old churches, I wouldn't want to be buried in a church graveyard.

One thing I am pretty certain about is the design of my headstone. I want it to be circular, I want it to be a stone that will weather nicely over time, and I want it to include an Ouroboros symbol - a serpent eating its own tail - as a symbol of the infinite cycle of destruction and recreation. I would also like a pentacle, as a symbol of my faith. I also want it to be Gothic Revival in style. That's pretty specific, so it's something I would like to commission while I'm still alive, partly as it would be quite expensive for those that remain after me and partly so I can make sure it's exactly as I'd like it. I will leave the face blank, so those who survive me can have whatever words they like inscribed on it, but I want the framing ornament to be quite specific. Maybe it will sit atop a pile of stones in a small cairn, maybe it will stand alone, such things as that, I haven't figured out.

When it comes to the funeral, in many ways, funerals are for the bereaved, not for the deceased. I don't want talk of heaven or God in the conventional meanings of those words at my funeral - for a start, my friends are too diverse in their beliefs for that, and it's also not what I believe in. I would like to write a letter of 'last goodbyes' to be read out at my funeral, and I suspect as my partner and I are Pagan, and much of our friendship circle is, that while we have diverse cosmologies and theologies, Paganism is more orthopraxic than orthodoxic - we are more united by practices than beliefs - so there will be certain elements of Paganism there. I don't want to dictate what those survive me do to best deal with my passing. How I want to be buried is important to me, but whatever rite of memorial others chose is for them, not for me.

I know, in my fantasies, that I'd like to be pulled to my resting place in an ornate carriage pulled by black horses, and that everyone would wear black in traditional mourning, and there would be candles and flowers and and that I'd be carried to my grave by my best friends (which wouldn't work out so well in real life when some are just about 5 feet tall, and some are over 6 feet tall!) and that I'd have a very dramatic, very Victorian funeral, just without the Christian liturgy, but that's what I'd like for myself, and I wouldn't be alive to appreciate it, so there'd be no point. Now, riding in a hearse while I'm alive is a different matter! I want my funeral to be for the benefit of those who survive me, not for me.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

'Goth' and 'Gothic; A Disambiguation

Most of my readers probably already know the difference, but I commonly see the two words used interchangeably, so I feel like a disambiguation could be useful. I guess part of the reason is that the Goth subculture is built upon the Gothic, but Goth is a more complex layering.

The term Gothic comes from the name of the architectural style, which itself was a misnomer. The pointed-arch style which is called Gothic was named so after Neo-Classical styles became fashionable, where the pointed arch style was misattributed to the historical Germanic tribes, whereas it mostly originated in France. The application of the term to things that were a specific kind of 'spooky' came a bit later, with late Romanticism bringing about a certain sort of horror novel, where an atmospheric setting was an essential component as much as supernatural elements, and the setting was often something like an old castle or abbey or such building, and often those buildings were Gothic - because by the 18thC those buildings were already centuries old and a good few had plenty of myths and legends already attached to them. That genre of horror, at that time primarily literary, but with a few illustrations and artworks beginning to emerge, which became the 'Gothic novel'.

As time progressed, the elements of the Gothic novel - the conflict between good and evil, the idea of there being a secret or mystery to uncover, the supernatural entities such as ghosts, vampires and werewolves (or the 'explained supernatural' of the likes of the works of Ann Radcliffe), and the atmospheric setting - got applied to more works in other mediums, such as paintings, poems, plays, music and into the 20thC cinema.

It is this Gothic genre which underpins a lot of the Goth subculture - it has given us a fashion aesthetic, an attitude of dark Romanticism, and plenty of subject matter for songs - however, it has also influenced aspects of metal, and there's plenty of people who enjoy aspects of the Gothic without being members of any subculture too, they just read a lot of Gothic novels and watch vampire movies. Those elements have permeated pop-culture, as well as subcultures, and are very prevalent. Often, when something is misidentified as 'Goth', what has been identified has been an element of the Gothic.

So, what makes Goth different to the Gothic?
I would say - in general terms, with exceptions - that all Goths are Gothic, not all Gothic things (or people) are Goth. The Gothic is the fertile ground from which Goth grew, but Goth is more than just an appreciation for the Gothic, and it has a very specific manifestation.
While Goth is a manifestation of the Gothic, Goth has more elements to it than just the Gothic, and it is something more specific. Most obviously, it has the Goth genre (and it's subgenres/similar enough genres) of music; the stuff that evolved out of '80s post-punk. You can see the influences of the Gothic in the lyric content and imagery of that '80s post-punk ("Bela Lugosi's Dead, Undead..." playing vampires in Gothic horror movies), but there are other visual, philosophical, and musical influences in that genre. Goth as a subculture is an eclectic amalgam of other aspects of primarily Western culture - it's taken from fetish culture, it's got fuzzy borders with the realms of metal (Fields of the Nephilim... ), it's taken horror tropes from outside the Gothic genre of horror (a I know a lot of Goths that are interested in the murderous psychopath sort of horror stories, for example), and it balances nihilism and Romanticism. Goth came about in the '80s, so there's stuff in the Goth fashion/style that's just a darker adaptation of what was popular in the '80s, such as angular makeup and back-combed hair. Goth also grew from punk, so there's aspects of punk thinking, although somewhat less political, in Goth, too, obvious in Goth's emphasis on the resistance of individuality despite external pressures to conform.

For example, while I'm a Goth because I like Goth music, try and make it to gigs when I can, participate in the club scene (as dwindling as it is where I live), have an attitude with roots in those movements outside of the Gothic that influenced Goth, and I take aesthetic cues from Goth fashion as well as Romantic fashion, I'm fundamentally also Gothic because that is the underpinning mind set - which, in me personally manifests itself in a love for the Gothic as originated in Gothic novels; the ruined architecture, the spooky castles, the ghosts and vampires, the cemeteries, the ancient curses and that dramatic, Byronic sort of decadence... 'Gothic' is the broader umbrella under which Goth shelters. It's also probably the term which should replace 'Goth' in terms like 'Pastel-Goth' or 'Cholo-Goth' which seem to have very little to do with the Goth subculture, but do have a connection to the darker things in life and, at least with Pastel Goth, I've seen Gothic elements like vampires, ghosts, bats and zombies as motifs.

I've seen terms like 'Darksider' and 'Schwarz Szene' to describe the broader miasma of dark subcultures (I'd say 'cloud' but we're being spooky here!) including Industrial, Cyber-Goth, and some parts of Metal, and I don't think Gothic can really replace that, because certainly some of the darkness embraced  in these subcultures is from quite a different angle than that within the Gothic genre - lots of dystopian, science-fiction inspiration exists in Industrial and Cyber-Goth especially, and again, the sort of horror that explores themes of madness, psychopathy, and a generally more 'clinical' (for lack of a better word) look into why people do terrible things, rather than a philosophical or supernatural/religious angle. There are still elements of the Gothic, however - songs about demons, devils, vampires and ghosts, supernatural motifs and a sort of Gothic-meets-science-fiction reminiscent of things like the 'Doom' gaming franchise, it just seems to be less of a thematic core, and certainly less of a strong underlying principle or aesthetic.

[An aside on Pastel-Goth: I've seen the term 'Creepy-Cute' used for what is known as 'Pastel-Goth'and I know that this is probably related to the play on words  in Japanese between 'kawaii' (cute) and 'kowoi' (scary), so maybe that is a better term altogether? I also don't know what this aesthetic is called in Japan, which appears to be where it originated.]

I think the word "Gothic" as a term to describe a person whose personality includes that sort of mind-set, those interests, that sort of aesthetic, is under-utilised, and is the answer for a lot of people who aren't Goth specifically, but want an umbrella to identify with - 'Gothic' is probably the better term. Certainly, it's an adjective rather than a noun, and lot of us are used to rolling our eyes (perhaps discreetly) when asked "so, are you a 'goffik'?" but I think it's the perfect term for people who love spooky things, but aren't so keen on the sound of the genres considered 'Goth' and would rather listen to say, metal or darker classical works, or maybe darker folk or similar, and just can't get into fishnet and backcombed hair, and hate clubbing, and as all Goths are inherently a bit Gothic anyway, we're all under the same spooky umbrella, so it's not excluding anyone by saying they're not a Goth, rather including a wider range of people by saying 'we're all Gothic', and most of the arguments over the term Goth don't really stem form what Goth is or isn't, but whether someone is included or excluded from the category.