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, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. 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.

Goth 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, the expression of that in Goth rock. It 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 (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, 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. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all those that celebrate it, Christian or secularised. Have a wonderful day!

I promise I am not as grouchy and Scrooge-like as I appear!

Enjoy the time with your families, rejoice, sing carols, eat lots of whatever you have for Christmas dinner, engage in acts of cheery charity and generally be nice. Good will and peace to all! 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy Solstice!

Happy Winter Solstice everyone! 
Enjoy yourselves!
Have a very blessed Solstice, fellow Pagans, and Atheists can treat the Solstice as a secular holiday; it is the shortest day of the year and the days will get longer afterwards and that is scientific fact. If you neither see it as a good secular holiday or celebrate a different midwinter holiday, have a good day anyway. 

I shall leave you with some pictures taken in 2010 of me being a happy Goth in the snow. My Dad took these. I was having a lot of fun playing in the woods, throwing snowballs at my Dad, having snowballs thrown at me at by my Dad. I was generally being a daft and silly and enjoying myself. 
Enjoying The Snow
Snow is my favourite sort of weather; it is both cold and pretty. I am the sort of person to build elaborate snow sculptures and make snow-angels and have snowball fights and go sledding.

I used to have dyed black hair with red and white clip-in streaks (a bit babybat, I know). I think my grandma knitted the black hat with snowflakes pattern. The boots I was wearing that day were studded with three sets of buckles and biker-styled, and really, really, comfortable. Sadly they were cheap and did not last. The trousers were black velvet, really, really, really warm and got worn to death. I still have the leather coat, gloves, and neck-kerchief. 
I'd Just Been Snowballed
This picture was taken back in Oxfordshire, England. Scotland gets much more snow than England, but we had particularly good snow that year. I miss winter back down South, and celebrating Christmas with my Dad, and playing in the woods being a big kid, especially with our friends.
Happy Winter Solstice!!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Media Speculation around the Connecticut Shooting

The media speculation surrounding the shooter's motives is getting out of hand.

I have an abnormally high IQ and was skipped a year at school; I also had mental health difficulties as a teenager (predominantly due to severe abuse as a child) and social difficulties of an as yet undetermined cause (it has been suggested that I may be on the Autistic spectrum, but testing as a child seemed to point otherwise, yet more recently the suggestion has been revived) my entire life. I am quiet and shy with strangers, and incredibly outgoing with friends. I appear strange due to my eccentric dress sense and unusual interests and hobbies. I even like weaponry (swords, and bows specifically).

I have not, and will not, murder anyone.

I should not have to point that out!

All the press is doing is making it worse for young people who are, for one reason or another, different and find it hard to fit in. In several cases of school shootings, the perpetrators have felt outcast and bullied and the shootings have been their (terribly cruel and unproductive) way of railing against the word. Promoting this distrust of those who are different is more likely to fuel another shooting than prevent one. Yes, it is important if an individual is showing signs of being an immediate danger to themselves or others that they get the suitable help, but being different is not in and of itself such a sign.

I would like the speculation to end until whatever the actual reasons for the shooter's behaviour are revealed. It is understandable that in the wake of what happened, that people scramble to find some kind of explanation, something to answer the "why?", but in the vacuum of knowledge left by the perpetrator's suicide, it is not right for the press to be promoting hearsay rather than fact.

I am especially upset by the suggestion that the shooter was Goth. There has so far been no evidence to substantiate such a claim, and after what happened with Columbine, I am concerned about misidentification of the individual as a member of a subculture they are not part of, and the repercussions against Goths that might occur (such as the incidents I have heard of people being called in for interrogation based on their sense of dress, and of heightened bullying). There are already a lot of misinformed people when it comes to the Goth subculture. It may turn out that the perpetrator was a member of the subculture, but even him being Goth will not have been the reason he did this; violence is not part of our subculture, and pointing out any subcultural affiliation is sensationalism, and harmful sensationalism based on existing negative misinformation about the nature of Goth.

The incident is being used as a platform upon which various political ideologies are debated, from the nature of mental health care in the United States of America to whether there should fewer guns or more guns there, and the details of gun control (which I gather varies significantly between states.) to the role of the media and the internet in the glorification of violence, and in this debate, I think something very important is being lost:

A tragedy has unfolded in which 20 children and 7 adults have died, many families are grieving, many mothers and fathers have now outlived their sons and daughters. People have died, people are hurting. That is the important thing. I do not wish to name the shooter because I feel that in naming him, he is getting posthumous infamy, and becoming the centre of media attention, when the centre of our attention should focus on those who have been hurt. That includes the shooter's family - his brother, his father, as they have to deal with the fact that the shooter killed his own mother first

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Practical Goth Style

I Don't ALWAYS Wear Frills

What I look like a lot of the time. I have no idea why I pulled that face.
I don't normally have THAT particular expression on. 
Those who keep up with the Domesticated page on FaceBook will have seen that photograph before.  It's a selfie taken with the onboard camera on my laptop.

I'm not really sure where I am aiming with this post. It's mostly an alternative to the two main stylistic expressions of Goth I see amongst female (mostly) bloggers and club-goers and festival-goers.

I've been told that looking like this makes me look more masculine (Ok, I got some random delinquent shout "Oi! Dyke! You look like a fag" at me in the street. I'm not sure how that insult works; I think he was telling me I was non-feminine lesbian who looked like a gay man as if sexual orientation somehow externally visible and comes with a dress code... But what else should I expect from a rude and prejudiced delinquent? )but I don't like to think of it as "masculine" because I think the gendering of styles is a societal construct that is directly related to the time and place - a kimono is not a dress, a kilt is not a skirt, etc. - and I just see it as a non-frilled, more practical style with a shorter hair style and no makeup.

I think people should wear what they like regardless of societal gender attribution of the clothes in question, so where I call things feminine,  if you are a man, androgyne, or other and want to wear them, go ahead. Femininity in these cases refers to their current cultural attributes, not to anything intrinsic. 

Recently, I have noticed two main trends, if one is to call them that, in women's (gendered fashion, I know, but these styles are predominantly worn by people identifying as women or girls) Goth fashion:

One is a very "sexy" style consisting of very short tutu-style skirts, ripped fishnets, very high heels, corsets and not much else, combined with hair extensions and lots of makeup designed to emphasise female secondary sexual characteristics such as the curvature of the waist (corsets), the shape of the hips (corsets and the way high heels make a person stand), the bust (corsets and revealing tops) and  the cheekbones (makeup designed to give a sculpted effect). The emphasis is on a womanly body. 

The second is based on women's attire from the Victorian era and Lolita fashion, and is an abundance of frills and lace, again with corseting to emphasise the hourglass figure, and with full skirts that give a width to contrast further with the tight-laced waist, ornate makeup more focused on being art  and drawing attention to the eyes than on emphasising any specific facial characteristic, hair in ringlets or curls, and very precarious hats. Again a very "feminine" style according to those who gender fashion. 

These are fine, I like both of these styles - I've been known to wear both of these styles, especially the latter.  I like corsets, I like emphasising the bits of my "womanly body" that I like best. I am not criticising these styles, or those who wear them, all I am saying is that I see MOSTLY these styles, and not a lot else. Goth fashion was actually originally quite different - the Romantic Goth style certainly has a basis in the '80s (just look at some of Dave Vanian's and Patricia Morrison's outfits!), but did not really come to the fore until the '90s and the advent of mass-produced clothes designed specifically for the Goth market, as before then anything very ornate or fancy had to either come from high fashion aimed at the evening-wear market, come from theatrical costuming, or involve considerable amounts of DIY (even dyeing a wedding-dress black isn't that easy, especially with so many made from synthetic fabrics!). 

The skimpy outfits seem to be based in both Deathrock and Cybergoth (where Cybergoth is seen as a fusion of Goth, Industrial and Rave and not as a 'subset' of Goth) and again is a more recent thing, especially as corsets were far harder to come by and more expensive about 10 to 15 years ago than they are, and as the Cybergoth scene has influenced the Goth scene a tendency to borrow aspects from that style has increased, and also following the Deathrock Revival. 

An aside: Interestingly enough, a lot of what is referred to as 'Nu-Goth' has its roots in '80s Goth - backcombed deliberately 'unkempt' hair, oversized t-shirts with bold graphics and skinny jeans - all those things could equally describe various outfits worn by Siouxsie Sioux in the early '80s! I actually like how a lot of 'Nu-Goth' fashion looks equally good on either gender, is considerably more practical than some of Goths more ornate manifestations. (Clothes with tubing and clothes with lace are NOT practical). 

I don't always wander around in frills. A lot of the time wearing a really frilly outfit just is not practical - I'm either at work (where I wear work-specific outfits) or doing chores, or doing charity work, or doing something else where frills just are not suitable. If I am out and about doing something practical, the last thing I want to do is wear finery that could be possibly damaged, or which could cause me to get caught up and possibly injured. I don't feel that my practical outfits have to be any less 'Goth', or that I am any less Goth for wearing something that isn't ornate or flamboyant. I also don't always feel like following the anachronistic aesthetic - sometimes I prefer things with a touch of military inspiration from this century (rather than the ornate uniforms of centuries past - Hussards de la Mort, I am looking at you!) and sometimes I prefer things with a more modern, sleeker aesthetic - that's just my fluctuating tastes. I was "tomboyish" as a child, and retain a lot of fashion preferences from that period (pockets and zips, please!). 

No Frills And No Corsets Practical Style Ramblings:

⚔ Trousers are really quite practical, and yes, I am Captain Obvious. 
I love wearing trousers. It actually took me until I was in my late teens to show any sign of appreciation for skirts, before then I thought of them primarily as outdated and impractical rather than pretty.  You can run freely in most styles of trousers, you are unlikely to end up accidentally flashing your underwear if you attempt something vaguely gymnastic, they keep your legs warm and cosy without tights, and and there are trousers to suit and fit every body type. 

⚔ Combats are probably the MOST practical.
My favourite type of trousers are combats (cargo trousers in America - which is odd as I would have thought the more militaristic name would be preferred), preferably black. I used to have a pair of camouflage combat trousers as a kid, but since my teens I have preferred plain black. Since seeing some rather nice grey and black 'urban camo' pattern combat trousers, I've been interested in getting a pair of those, because the greys do break up the black. 

⚔ Strappy trousers are not the sole preserve of 'Mall Goths'
I actually like those trousers with the abundant pockets, extra wide legs and straps. The straps are often removable if they get in the way, the pockets are really useful, the wide legs fit and flatter a variety of body shapes, and they actually don't look quite as overtly militaristic as combat trousers. Sadly they have become associated with 'Mall Goths', which I think is perplexing as I personally associate them more with certain branches of Rivethead and Cybergoth style. Raven has a fabulous pair in black with red detailing that he wears as part of red and black Cybergoth-inspired outfits. Hearing them called "bondage pants" is odd to me (especially as a Brit- "pants" here are underwear! I do know that "pants" are trousers in America.) as they do not seem particularly fetish related to me (I would imagine "bondage pants" as something involving leather, chastity devices and lots of D and O rings to be useful for restraint and actual bondage... I may not have the cleanest imagination.) 

Aside: as a teenager I could not order that sort of trouser online because the "parental filters" that took the BDSM interpretation of the concept of "bondage pants" rather than the strapped trousers interpretation. 

⚔ Patent leather ankle boots and suchlike should be an obvious choice. 
Doc Marten's are the traditional brand; they are well-made, comfortable shoes. They have been worn by subcultural types for decades (sometimes literally) and are brilliant. There are a lot of cheaper imitations on the market now, as the style has become fashionable again. I prefer the original brand for quality and comfort.  

⚔ Army boots are not just for the army.
I have a pair of ex-British Army combat boots. They are warm (with an insole) and comfortable. I have a few military friends, all of whom have given me tips on how to achieve and maintain a high gloss finish (I'm looking at you, Sarge!). I have an acquaintance (who runs a shop selling antique militaria; I bought a sword off her) whose daughter was a Goth and who reliably informs me that the most hard-wearing and comfortable army boots to be worn every day, as tried and tested by her daughter, are those intended for the French Foreign Legion. I have not yet managed to try a pair to know for myself. 

Also, fake 'military boots' with the zips at the side have proven unreliable in my experience; I have had the zips damaged or break more than once, especially on cheaper boots. 

⚔ Hiking boots do come in black.
If you're going hiking, don't feel that the boots have to be brown. My hiking boots are black. I do a lot of stuff that involves walking off road, up mountains and hills and in forests, and hiking boots are specifically designed for hiking. 

⚔ Shirts are for everybody.
I wear a lot of plain black button up shirts  - fitted ones, yes, but ones that are better described as women's work shirts than as blouses. I see blouses as having more decorative details and being made of more decorative materials. In summer I tend to wear black button-up short-sleeved shirts over a thin tank-top. I can vary the amount of buttons undone in accordance with the temperature, or just take it off and tie it around my waist if it gets hot enough (and, of course, slater on the suncream!). 

⚔ Turtle-neck jumpers are not only for the late Steve Jobs. 
In winter I am very frequently seen having traded in my frills and skirts for black combat trousers, a black turtle neck, a scarf and my leather long coat. Having a turtleneck on under the scarf is such good insulation, especially in the case of the accidental dislodgement of one's scarf. I have at least 5 black turtle neck jumpers in a variety of thicknesses, and one fluffy grey and black stripy one (although that one is between a cowl neck and turtle-neck). 

⚔ Leather jackets are traditionally Goth AND awesome. 
Do I REALLY need to explain why leather jackets are awesome? No, I didn't think I did. 

That is all, pretty much, I can think to write about. I don't consider myself much of a style guru. I'm better at being practical than being stylish, which I why I actually thought to write this (rather than "how to do look devilishly handsome on combats" or something) and I don't think I am breaking any new ground or doing anything beyond pointing out a few oft-forgotten but pretty obvious things. 

Oh and the ⚔ symbol? I'm STILL on the waiting list for fencing (argh!) and have no proper reason to use the symbol other than I miss waving sword-type things about the place! 

Shout out: Sarge, I KNOW are reading this. I'm hoping calling you generic "Sarge" is anonymous enough (those who know you AND me will know who I mean, hopefully nobody else does). I hope everything is going well for you, and I look forwards to seeing you again, and I hope you got my letters and stuff. You've only got a week left until you're back home! I look forwards to you rocking out on guitar when you get back! Stay safe. 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Prize Draw!

I was going to run a Prize Draw on Facebook, based on the first 100 people to like my page, but that goes against the Facebook rules for running a page, so I can't do that. Instead, I will run a Prize Draw here. If you've already liked my page in hopes of winning, you'll have to comment here, too. Sorry about that! 

The prize will be a drawing by me, done in biro, based on a graveyard photograph I have taken. It will be between A5 and A4 in size, and unframed due to postage. It is open to anyone in the world, but how long the picture takes to get to you will vary by location. That's just how the postal service is, and is outside of my control. I'm not going to change the prize or offer a monetary substitute or alternative prize. This Prize Draw's prize is exclusively a biro drawing of a graveyard. At the date of writing this, the drawing is not complete, but it will be completed before the Closing Date. 

Have a look at my gallery page to see examples of my art style. 

Closing Date
The closing date to enter the competition was originally going to be based on getting 100 likes, but as this contravenes Facebook's promotions rules, and the fixed date rule from the Advertising Standards Agency, I am going to give a fixed closing date:

One minute to midnight, according to British time, on 1st February (Imbolc) 2013. 
23:59 01/02/2013

You've got about months to comment on this post (and ONLY this post - comments elsewhere don't count!). Any comments made after this time will not be added to the hat. Names will be entered into the hat, and drawn in the week (7 days) after the closing date. 

More Important Stuff
The draw will be supervised by someone who is not a relative of mine, not Raven, and not affiliated to this blog, to make sure that I've really put everyone's names into the hat, and that I'm not peeking. The winner will be notified within 7 days of the closing date. 

One entry per person. Family members of mine can't enter, because that would involve a conflict of interest.

Entry is free. Contestants will be notified by a response in the comments section, and we can communicate via more private means to discuss postage details (address) once a winner has been drawn. Make sure that your comment states clearly that you want to be a entrant into the Prize Draw. If you want to comment on it without entering, please state that in your comment, too. 

This prize draw is being run and promoted by me (HouseCat of Domesticated Goth) and is not promoted, managed, run-by or affiliated with Blogger, Blogspot or Google. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Alternative X - Or "HouseCat Goes Clubbing"

I rarely go clubbing. I went out for drinks a couple of weeks back for somebody's leaving 'do', but that was not 'clubbing'! The last time I went clubbing properly was on Halloween night 2011, where incidentally I went to another Alternative X night in Inverness. Back in 2011 Alternative X was held at a club called 'Cake' but when Cake closed, Alternative X was made venue-less. I think Halloween 2011 was their last night for quite a while. 

Anyway, Alternative X is now hosted by Karma Lounge, on Young Street in Inverness. Karma Lounge has hosted other nights that I've really wanted to go to (including UV nights! I love glowing!) but have always been so far unable to go to. Partly it is because I live outside of the town, and don't like travelling around the city as an alternative female on my own. I get a lot less bother when I'm out with Raven. Anyway, I heard some of my friends were going, so arranged to meet up with them and go out.

I hadn't been inside the Karma Lounge before, and it seems like quite a nice place. The main floor is divided into four areas - an entrance area with steps and a ramp, a standing area (part of which was the dance-floor), some seating and tables, and at the back were what looks like cushions and sofas - presumably what gives the place the 'Lounge' aspect of its name! They appeared closed off for the club night, though. Toilets were upstairs and a bit odd to navigate to - I thought I'd accidentally wandered into staff areas to begin with. They have a quote from  Paul's letters to the Galatians about reaping and sowing painted on a cross-beam. There's a building not far away with Bible quotes on the outside wall, telling people not get drunk engraved into the walls, so it's interesting to see the Bible quoted in such different context in the same city (from different centuries).

I was the first person of our little group to arrive, and ended up sitting alone. Two guys sat down next to me, this was fine, they were polite, asked first, etc, didn't bother me. I heard them speaking in Polish, and I recognised the voice... Started a conversation with them, later found out, after talking Roller Derby, that the chap I was talking to was a friend of a friend and that we'd met before at that leaving do I'd mentioned earlier, but in this different context, neither of us had initially recognised the other! Proof that it is a small world (especially in the alternative scene) indeed.

I caught up with my friends, ended up only buying a couple of drinks in the whole night (for others) and people were constantly buying me drinks (apparently I dance well or something... I think I dance badly and people are getting me more drinks to lower my inhibitions and therefore have me dance more (and in a less co-ordinated manner) in order to giggle at this... Perhaps I am paranoid). Drinks were reasonably priced, the Amaretto was tasty (downing shots of it, though, is never a good idea for me!). It was a free entry night, and usually when clubs run free entry nights, the price of the drinks are inflated, but it didn't seem the case with Alternative X and Karma Lounge. 

The music erred more towards rock and Metal than Goth, with a dash of Punk (I was screaming along to the Sex Pistols at one point) but that seemed fair given that the majority of the clientele were Metal-Heads rather than Goths. They did play 'Lucretia, My Reflection' by Sisters of Mercy and 'Spellbound' by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and a couple of other tracks that catered towards the more traditional Goth scene, but I didn't hear EBM or similar, though (although I guess that for those that don't like 'Cyber-Goth' that will be a good thing. 

I met the host, Brian, who is a very friendly person, who went around, looking to see that all the patrons were enjoying themselves. He also introduced me to his wife (whom I first noted for wearing a gorgeous fitted long leather coat, frilly shirt, cincher and New Rocks. Romantic Goth done excellently!) and his wife and I seem to get on really well - we were  chatting away for ages! It's nice to see a Goth night run by someone who seems really passionate and involved with the local scene. 

I had a lot of fun dancing (which is my primary motivation for clubbing) and hanging around with my friends (something that can be done without clubbing, so doesn't count as a motive for going clubbing specifically.) The only bad bit was me accidentally knocking someone's drink out of their hands while dancing. I'm definitely planning on going to Alternative X again. I really wish Raven had been able to go out with me that night, but he was working in the morning; hopefully he'll be able to go to the next one. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Wintery Work Wear

This is the most Gothic I have so far been at work...

Ok, I don't really like doing outfit posts, but I'm too sick to do anything that requires much more thinking and effort. I'm not a fashion blogger, and I'd rather write about architecture, or music, or books than clothes, but this sort of post is fairly easy to put together, doesn't require research and fact-checking (I just don't have the concentration for that, today), and doesn't require me to stand outside in late November in Scotland taking pictures of buildings when I've got the 'flu. I am also bored out of my skull because most of the stuff I'd rather do right now is either impractical or in one way or another too strenuous. I'm supposed to be recuperating! I got into work yesterday, and was fine, tried to go back into work today, got about an hour into it, and got sent home sick again. I am not amused! I would much rather be at work. As you can see, I get really whiny when sick because I hate not doing anything!

Anyway, without too much further ado, an outfit post. This is what I wore into work this morning, well from the chest up (the rest of me is in bed; I took these on my laptop, hence the lack of quality.). As you can see, my outfits are getting a tad more alternative in terms of Gothic, anachronistic and Neo-Victorian influences. It is now common knowledge that I am Goth amongst the rest of the staff at work, and they don't seem particularly bothered. I actually have had some rather interesting conversations with one colleague about '80s Goth, Post-Punk, Darkwave, etc. because it turns out we share some tastes in music. I get light-hearted ribbing, but nothing malicious. 

Today's outfit, well at least the top section.
All that said, I don't want to dress Goth for work, and I still want to be work-appropriate in my outfit choices. I am also trying to think outside of only practicality in terms of my dress at work, because now it is cold I tend to be wearing black office trousers, lots of socks, blouses and vests hidden under thick jumpers, and as part of my job is outside, often hiking boots (mostly because of the grass, leaves, mud, etc. and slippery slopes) and then other shoes for indoors - this is warm and toasty and practical, but it is also a very bland look. My coworkers are turning up in skirts and dresses and I'm feeling a little left out, so I'm trialling wearing layers rather than thick jumpers, and skirts (with layers underneath) rather than always trousers. 

If I am going to wear skirts to work, I will need to buy a few more work-appropriate ones; I have a Marks & Spencer's velvet pencil skirt (bought cheap in a charity shop) that goes well with this jacket, and a relatively plain black A-line skirt with a gathered section at the bottom, but I think it might be a tad too fancy for work, and then the rest of my skirts are far too fancy for work. I felt the suit-type outfits I was wearing initially were more suited to an office than a school, and were overly formal, but I tend to err towards formality at the best of times. 

I'd like to smile, but my lips are too sore.
This outfit is all from mainstream stores (originally; I tend to shop in charity shops or from e-Bay). The blouse was bought for £1.99 in a charity shop (bargain!) and is actually quite detailed and frilly, almost to a Lolita-esque extent (I'm actually thinking of wearing it in some Aristo outfits), so I've hidden some of the fanciness under a tie-neck jumper with white scrolling, almost foliate embroidery, which  is originally from Marks & Spencer and which I bought on eBay at 99p! (Definite bargain!). The velvet jacket is Laura Ashley, and was gifted to me by Raven's mother (who is a very stylish lady indeed.) and I love the sleeves on it, and the gathers and puff at the shoulders. I have a lot of garments that have huge Gothic potential that were originally either Marks & Spencer or Laura Ashley, and I think from Autumn/Winter collections. I think I would buy a few new things from them if I had that sort of money, but for now I will glee over my second-hand bargains.

If I can't have a different expression, I'll at least have a different angle.
I'm not wearing any make-up in these pictures because a) I tend to wear very little makeup to work anyway; I feel too much makeup looks unprofessional and b) because of the skin infection, especially around my lips (I think even in these washed-out pictures some of the redness around my mouth is visible, and it is clear my lips are a bit swollen, and this is after considerable healing.) I'm quite glad that these pictures are grainy and washed-out because it hides the fact that I'm dead pale with a red nose, horrible skin, peeling on my lips and a runny nose. Hurrah for terrible onboard cameras! 

As you can see, I have dyed my hair black; this was a bad idea as I spent a week with a really itchy scalp, sore eyes, blisters on my ears and neck, and generally came to the conclusion that I am STILL allergic to black hair-dye, and that this is never going to change. I guess I will either have to suffer, or revert back to plum and burgundy, which don't seem to have much of an effect on me. That said, I still think I look best with black hair, and I do have some nice wigs. 

That's all from me being a prim and proper schoolmarm! Have a nice day, everyone, and I hope you are all feeling better than me.  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Zombie Symptoms May Be Decieving

Is a loved one pale, with a deathly complexion, crusting and lesioned skin? Are they groaning and croaking and incapable of coherent speech? Are they lurching around in an ungainly manner? Do you know the zombie drill? 


Don't decapitate them yet! 

They might not have the zombie plague. Zombi-like symptoms may be deceiving! I got badly chapped lips from the cold and wind, and the chapping got infected, so I had scabs and crust and sores around my mouth. This horrible crustiness was combined with my fluey complexion - pale skin, drippy nose, puffy eyes - made me look a bit like the living dead for a bit, and not the cool vampire type. This was not really helped by a sore throat that left me croaking and moaning, unable to speak normally. I was all achey from the flu, and groggy (although I'm not sure if that is from the flu or the medication) and stumbling around. 

It is vital to check someone is really a zombie before decapitating them; you can't just sew their head back on if you get it wrong. Well, you can, but ask Dr. Frankenstein about how that turned out. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Letters, Postcards and Far-Away Friends

I've got a stack of about 20 letters and cards waiting to be posted. I lost my wallet twice in two weeks and am waiting for a replacement bank card to be sent to me by my bank, so I going to the post office to mail it all has been put on hold. It is quite a varied stack of correspondence; I have a letter for my partner's mother (all mother-in-law jokes do not apply!), postcards for friends in Europe, Solstice and Christmas cards that I am writing now but will post closer to the date, fan mail for Jillian Venters of ::Gothic Charm School::, letters to go home to my Dad, a congratulatory card for my little sister, a ridiculously late birthday card and present for a friend in Australia, updates in art cards for a friend in China, cheerful letters for friends in various militaries, etc. etc. As I was readying this stack of mail for the day I am a) well enough to go outside (I still have the 'flu, and my chapped lips have gotten infected) and b) my new bank card arrives, I came to a realisation:

I actually communicate more by hand-written letters and cards than I do by e-mail. 

It would be considerably cheaper to e-mail all my friends abroad, especially those in China, America, Australia, where not only do I pay for the cards or card-making materials, but also the cost of postage abroad. With e-mails I could fit far more writing into far less space. It's also far quicker for me to type than hand-write (my flowing, curly, and rather ornate handwriting is time-consuming to do neatly!) and then decorate/illustrate my letters. What I am doing is terribly outdated, possibly a bit pretentious (more likely that me talking about it is pretentious) and the internet should have made this all obsolete a decade ago. I do still write (if personal, very long) e-mails to people, but I prefer writing things out by hand, on proper paper, or if really pushed for time, printing things out on nice paper. 

There's a few reasons why I prefer communicating by letter. Basically, I think of why I like getting letters, and reverse the logic to the recipient of the letters I write and hope that they appreciate them too. 

Letters are tangible, hard copies need to be physically destroyed or thrown away to be gone, unlike e-mails that you can delete with a click or loose in a system crash (if you don't back up your e-mails). There is also something more rewarding about receiving a tangible object than an e-mail. An e-mail is just digital information, whereas a postcard is an actual printed card with writing on, or a decorated letter is made of actual paper and ink (and paint or whatever) and my more elaborate card-making and paper-craft projects are all actual objects, not just pulses of electricity (whatever computer code you use, it all boils down to binary, to "on" or "off" in sequence.). I like having letters from friends, I store them away carefully in a decorative box, and go back to that box when I feel miserable, take out the letters, read them, handle them, reminisce, think of the people who sent them to me. Even if they are plain typed letters, reading a letter on paper seems a lot more special than re-reading an e-mail. I even print out e-mails that are special to me. 

Some of my friends are thousands and thousands of miles away from where I live; it is impractical for me to be physically near them. Some I may not see in person for years, if at all, because of the cost of visiting and the time it would take making it prohibitive. I cannot be there with them, but a papery token of my affection can be sent. 

Physical mail, written and decorated by hand, takes a lot of time and effort to make, and is unique. I can print the same letter off five times and get five near-identical letters, but if I write the same letter out five times, there will be variations in my writing, probably a few crossed-out mistakes, a few splodges where I should have blotted or not smudged things with my hands, etc. With cards and postcards, I've taken the time, effort (and negligible money) to pick out a postcard or card that the person will appreciate, and I've still written my message out by hand. I try and find postcards with good photographs of the local area to give a better sense of how beautiful Scotland is than if I tried to photograph things myself. 

Writing by hand gives me almost infinite typographical freedom, too. I can write in my usual handwriting, deliberately adopt 'fonts', write in exaggerated manners, use calligraphy, write words with pictures, add diagrams and illustrations, etc. etc. I can write in whatever colour ink I have available, I can write with a paint-brush, I can write in pencil and draw my messages. I can even very carefully, with ruler, compass, drawing board, etc. draw out in light pencil the framework for my design, and come up with something quite exacting and complex if I so desire. Sometimes I will buy blank cards, and write "Happy Ostara" or "Solstice Blessings" in this way inside, so that the message is its own work of art. I actually enjoy the process of creating letters, messages, illustrations, etc. so creating my mail for people is fun for me. By using my creative skills, I can try visually express things to my friends, and hopefully communicate more than the words alone. 

Letters aren't dead, if anything, receiving a letter now means more to me than it did 15 years ago, and hopefully it means something special to all the people I write to, too. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Columns, Sunsets and Skies (and no zombies)

I haven't died! I haven't been abducted by aliens! I haven't been turned into a zombie! Don't panic!

I have not been posting much recently because I have been really busy with my professional art and even busier at work - especially in my new role as choir mistress, as we now have Christmas celebrations coming up and I am running them through traditional carols. Running a choir is a LOT of hard work! 

I had so much Hallowe'en-related stuff to post that I never got around to that I have decided to schedule it all for next Hallowe'en instead. I made very easy folded paper leaves (they are so simple that they don't count as origami!), made several designs of paper-craft cards, made my own Halloween wrapping paper, designed the pumpkin (which features a portrait of my cat), dressed up in two different costumes (including turning up at work dressed as a pirate for not one but two Hallowe'en parties I helped at), done my own fancy make-up, and decorated the house for the occasion. I was also going to write about Samhain, which is what I actually celebrate... Expect all that next year instead. 

I also have excellent news - I am now an aunty! My little sister gave birth to a baby girl last week. She's really cute in all the photographs, but I haven't been able to travel to England to see her in person yet. I am very excited to be someone's mad aunt :-3

I also have the grumpy news that I have a stinking cold/possibly the flu and am hiding in bed where my anger at being ill can't be taken out on anybody too much, although I am driving poor Raven up the wall. I might as well do something useful, and post something that people will appreciate, and I intended to put these up last night, but they're going up here today instead. 

Architectural Photography
I went out a couple of weeks ago and took these pictures. I really liked the light late in the afternoon. The nights are drawing in early, and it starts getting dark at around 15:30hrs, and even before then the light is already dimming, and it gets light quite late, too. Soon the days will be very short indeed.

Anyway, as you can see I have been out enjoying the autumn evenings. I love taking photographs in the evenings, as the shadows really bring out the various planes of the buildings. Buildings are often made up of lots of flat planes, especially modern buildings that focus more on form than ornament for visual interest, so they can look flat and dull, more like a pattern than a three dimensional structure. I have no idea what this building is called or who designed it, but it is overlooking the main street towards the bridge and is fairly recent. I saw the sun gleaming off the balcony railings and just had to take a photograph of this moment before the sun shifted and the gleam went. The sky was blue with perfect fluffy clouds. 

This used to be the Inverness branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland but is now The Caledonian, a Smith & Jones pub (Raven went there for part of a night out partying for Hallowe'en, it's apparently quite nice.). The building in the foreground is the Town House, which I have featured before in ::this:: post. Unlike most Invernesian buildings of that period, it is Neoclassical rather than medieval inspired Gothic Revival or Scottish Baronial. There are other Neoclassical buildings in the city (notably chapels) but in general pointed arches prevail over fluted columns. Of course, Neoclassical has been a preferred style for banks seeking a style that embodies balance and order, unlike the fancy and fantasy and spiritual (church) connotations of Gothic Revival architecture. Famous banks built in that style include the Bank of England building in London by Sir John Soane. Oddly, I always thought that the pub had previously been a theatre, until I saw an old photograph from when it was still a bank. 

The pink around the window frames is from the coloured lighting they have to illuminate the building at night. Something similar has been done with buildings around the railway station and the library, both also Neoclassical architecture. While it is very pretty, I do wonder about all the electricity used, and ponder about if such lights should be turned off at about 22:00hrs, but I'm perhaps being the overly-green fuddy-duddy. Anyway, I like the columns - it's a facade in the Corinthian style, with acanthus leaves on the column capitals, fluted columns and an entablature and pediment with figures in the tympanum, but I didn't get a clear photo of that part of the building (I will have to try again). 

I would really like to find out more about the history of this building, who designed it, when it was built, etc. but am not sure where to look. I'd also like to find out exactly what the statues in the tympanum depict. My first port of enquiry will be the local library, and then the museum. 

The Caledonian is not the only Neoclassical building in Inverness, as I have previously mentioned. This building is on the corner of Academy St. and Baron Taylor St. (or the next one over) and is a mixture of Art Deco and Neoclassical sensibilities. There's probably a name for this sort of style, but I regret to admit that I don't know it. It's quite ornate, but all the forms have been simplified. This is actually the one of the first photographs (all of this building) I took on that afternoon, and the sky was still quite blue. 

Hopefully my next blog entry will be a little more Goth, rather than just some photographs of interesting old buildings. While I really would love to learn when various local buildings were built, in what order, and with what modifications, I'm not sure that everyone else reading my blog would be interested, and if I wanted to go down that path, I would be better off starting a blog uniquely about architectural history.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ye Olde Babybat Pictures!

I can't believe I am actually publishing these on the public internet...

Yes, glowering at the camera made me SO much more Goth... 
These are so old that they might as well be out of the Ark! These are all terrible selfies taken eons ago, when I was a teenage babybat. These are from the start of my second attempt at Goth, so at least they are not as bad as the photographs from when I was a Goth the first time around would have been, had any been taken. Please forgive the absolute lack of photographic skill, and be reassured that I have improved since then (even if I insist on using the built-in computer camera on occasions).I am posting these here to show that even older Goths were once babybats. I did not get it 'right' straight away, and I had to learn what good makeup was (hint: not this!) and that looking sullen in all my photographs was not 'more Goth' and did nothing to make me look more serious, if anything, it made me look more ridiculous. 

So serious, but sparkly!
 Goth, as a visual aesthetic and fashion style, takes considerable time to learn. You can learn about the music a lot quicker than you can acquire the makeup, fashion and style skills. In these pictures I had learnt how to line my eyes, and put white on my lower waterline to make my eyes appear bigger, but my mascara is patchy, barely there and generally awful, and those dots...  just why did I think them a good idea? I hadn't learnt to blend properly, so there are sudden and distinct transitions of colour across my eyelids, not that those colours in that arrangement would blend in a manner aesthetically pleasing to me, anyway. 

I used to dye my hair black (but have since become sensitive to black dye), which is one thing I miss. I have black wigs now, but it is not the same. Before people suggest using henna and indigo, I have tried this more than once, and have only managed to darken my hair slightly, and not to black. I still have that stripy red and black blouse, but the red has faded and black is now a dark charcoal. 
Woe is me, my dots are not symmetrical.

I also used to have terrible, terrible skin. I had bad acne, dry patches, and oily patches. These things cleared up over time, and usually do. I do not suggest using lots of foundation or thick makeup if you have these usual teenage skin complaints; they only made the acne worse with me, and did little to disguise the underlying rough texture of my face. A good diet with a good intake of water helps. I don't have a  fancy regime of products, I just eat my greens and drink lots of water and fruit juice, and wash my face with warm water. 

Anyway, babybats and younger Goths, do not despair, and keep practising. Your future older self may look back on pictures of your current self and sigh, but it is these early years of being Goth during which you experiment and find what you like, what you are good at, and what works. Older Goths, do not mock the younger and newer Goths for their lack of makeup skills and poor choices of clothes (and erroneous music categorisations, arguments over Marilyn Manson and other such newbie faux-pas), because everyone was new once, even if they were new at the same time as the subculture was new (I wasn't, by the way, I'm too young to have been an '80s Goth, even if I am old enough to remember bits of the '80s.) 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Hallowe'en Fun - Ness Islands: Haunted!

This evening I went to 'Haunted!' at Ness Islands in Inverness. It is a family-friendly event, so it's not meant to be very scary, more entertaining. Most of the set up was created by the Highland Council’s Lighting Department, which considering the Islands already have lots of cool lighting that lights up the trees in colours, and involves chains of coloured bulbs strung along the paths, was quite bright but still atmospheric - I think it would have been spookier without the crowds, and the regular (non-Hallowe'en) lighting is always quite magical. The acting and suchlike were done by Arts in Motion, Eden Court Creative and Fly Agaric. A lot of the performers were young people and children, and I think it is excellent that there were so many young people getting involved. 

It was a costume event, and as the event was themed around witches, I came dressed up as a fairytale witch, with black lace cape, fancy makeup (to the point that it was almost face-painting with makeup) and, of course, a point hat! My pointy hat is from Poundland, and is covered in spiderweb lace. I used tome extra lacey stuff that was lying around my closet to tie my hat onto my head, with a bow under my chin, as it was quite windy out. A lot of the visitors, especially the children coming to watch, were dressed up. I saw some really good costumes on visitors, some out-doing the performers! One little girl came as a zombie in a once-pretty white dress, and I thought her costume was very good, and actually quite scary for someone so young! My costume must have been fairly good because  a lot of the children and several of the adults apparently thought I was part of the haunt. I took that as a compliment and did a few random cackles and spooky poses for children that I thought would appreciate them. It was really busy, and there were loads of children. I saw a few of the children that go to the school I work at, and gave them all a wave. 

The first section of the haunt was a gathering of witches around a cauldron, dancing and creeping through the trees. The cauldron was glowing and frothing, and the witches dancing around it. The actresses playing witches ranged in age from young teenagers to adults. Their creeping through the trees was certainly the best part of their act, and quite spooky for the younger children. The next part was a shadow-play of a devil. The path curved 'round, to where the witches were visible once more, chanting around their cauldron. The next section was mainly done with lighting effects, and involved projections of skulls and creepy things onto trees, and section where UV reactive skeletons hung near UV lights, which was not particularly in itself (although the UV lights do glow strangely) but was a good opportunity for me to stand around and let my makeup glow, seeing as a lot of it was done with UV reactive makeup! A pair of stilt-walkers guarded the entrance to the next section, both dressed as 18thC ghosts. The female ghost had a flintlock in one hand, and a knife in her chest, so I asked her if she managed to shoot her attacker before she got stabbed, to which she replied that she had, and gotten away with his money! 

There was a projection of a toad, which seemed odd, and it was animated, and deliberately an unpleasant specimen of a toad! He was projected onto a large screen just over the small bridge joining the island. Some people were dressed as skeletons, which beckoned you over and reached out as if to shake hands - as visitors reached back out, they'd jump backwards! There was a game for children, involving a projection of a skeleton with a sword, and some foam swords, where one went up against this projected skeleton on a screen, and had to hit it with the foam sword until it collapsed in a pile of bones. It was clearly aimed at young children, and I think would be quite fun for that age group. At Ness Islands there is a circular seating area cut into an artificial mound, which for Haunted! served as temporary Hellish arena, lit in an eerie red, for a dance troupe dressed as the undead  that lurched and danced in front of a live string ensemble (also in ghoulish costumes). Their dance was quite athletic, and I must imagine that repeating it over, and over, and over throughout the evening must have been quite tiring, especially considering how cold out it was.  There was a very large inflatable skull, but it did not seem to be part of any haunt scene. 

Some chaps dressed as wizards did a dance in front of a projection of occult symbols and a portal, but while the set was good, their costumes were let down by them wearing their winter clothes visibly under their cloaks. It would have been better if the cold of a Scottish winter had been taken into account when they were designing the costumes, so that they could be both warm and more convincingly wizardly. I did see one of the visitors in a warm-looking wizard costume (with a vast fake beard!), so it is certainly possible. A chap dressed as a medieval flautist akin to the pied piper was playing an eerie tune, and a group of ghostly children in night clothes (over black warmer clothes) were following him around. His music was spookily enchanting.  

The next section had eerie red lights, and a group of girls on temporary pedestals acting as living statues, who'd suddenly move. Their costumes were very good. With them were 'undead' children, carrying lanterns, who would mingle with the crowd as they moved past, and then suddenly shriek and all drop down! I knew it was coming and still gave me a start. I think their movements as eerie members of the undead, and the empty gazes on their faces were very good for such young actors, and this was certainly the creepiest section of the haunt. Maybe this is because I've watched too much Dr. Who and it reminded me of the Weeping Angels. There was an acrobat on  a broom suspended between two trees, doing all sorts of gymnastics and stunts, including hanging upside down from her broom-trapeze and generally larking about high in the air. I thought she did a good job doing such fancy things while in costume, and did very well not loose her hat! She was very impressive and entertaining, and I wish I could clamber about like that! 

There were a pair of actors dressed as giant seagulls, with articulated snapping beaks who were deliberately messing with the visitors. Any person who has been mobbed by a flock of seagulls for food will be able to say that as far as birds go, seagulls are indeed bothersome creatures! I thought this interactive section was quite good, as it was both funny and engaging with the visitors. The last section of the haunt was a series of ghosts from various historical periods, including a casualty of the Battle of Bannockburn, still dragging about his sword, and a zombified WW2 soldier! There was also a victorian maid with one kitchen knife in her back, and another in her chest, ranting about how the blood had ruined her best white pinny and how she'd have to make new rice pudding, and how this was a lesson for children not run with knives! 

All in all, it was good fun, and I think the actors put in a good effort, especially considering it was outdoors and it was raining out. It wasn't particularly scary, but I didn't expect any real scares, just some Hallowe'en fun, and that it provided. The haunt was free to enter which was very good, and unexpected. There were a few food stands and public toilets, which was very sensible, considering the numbers. I bought myself an artisan pizza with no tomatoes! 

Friday, 19 October 2012

Spirit Day 2012

Today is Spirit Day. Spirit Day started off as a Canadian phenomenon, but has since gone global, in no small part due to internet users, and is a day of standing in solidarity with LGBTQ youth and in solidarity against bullies. To take part in Spirit Day, show your support by wearing purple.   

Of course, bullying is not a one-day-a-year occurrence but to some a near-daily blight on their lives. I'm not going to preach about how bullying people is wrong, or about how there is nothing wrong with being lesbian, gay, bisexual or being outside of the traditional gender binary, because these things should be pretty obvious to anyone.

What I will say is to do your best to help those who are hurting, and if you yourself are bullied, find someone to talk to, someone who will listen - I know that educational establishments often don't do enough, and that some parents are hardly sympathetic, but these aren't the only people in the world - talk to a friend, a relative, an internet friend (although I do stress being careful on the internet, and sadly note that the proliferation of internet attention seekers crying wolf does mean that more public pleas for help and rants/venting are often met with derision), somebody - don't keep it to yourself, that only makes it worse. Do try and seek justice and help via the proper channels, and do try and explain to your parents if at all possible. In the UK there are advice and listening telephone numbers, with people at the other end to help. 

Bullying doesn't mean that that the bullied person is a bad person; it means that the bullies are bad people.

Spirit Day was founded in response to teen suicides related to bullying, and that's one thing this world doesn't need any more of. 

As a teenager, other girls made assumptions about my sexuality due to my lack of adherence to gender roles, they called me a dyke, a lesbian, and plenty of things too rude to type here, they spread malicious rumours and generally used the assumption that I was a lesbian as another difference to make fun off (as if being a gangly, academically successful (to the point of having skipped a year at school), alternative girl with braces wasn't enough. What made it worse was at the time, I actually did have a huge crush on a girl at the time, and had not yet had a crush on anybody male, which  were things I was too afraid to acknowledge, because the use of "gay", "dyke", and "lesbo" as insults made it seem like those were bad things to be, that there was something wrong with me, that worst of all, the bullies were right. It took me a while to openly acknowledge that I was bisexual. 

I'm now in a long-term (hopefully permanent) relationship with a man, so in terms of societal acceptance I seem superficially to be heteronormatively acceptable, but that doesn't mean that I agree with the way that certain members of society treat LGBTQ people, or that I don't understand what it's like to be a young person questioning and learning about their own sexuality in the face of the prejudices of others. 

As such, my heart goes out to all that suffer due to the prejudices of others, and remember - you are not alone, and you are not a bad, broken, or evil person for being LGBTQ - those who bully, on the other hand... 

::Spirit Day at GLAAD:: - the official website for Spirit Day.
::Samaritans::, for the despairing and suicidal - they have a letter, telephone and e-mail service.
::ChildLine:: helpline for children facing a variety of issues, including bullying. 
::Lesbian & Gay Switchboard:: UK advice for LGBT people.