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..

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.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Trip To Dundreggan With Trees for Life

I will unashamedly say that I think Scotland is Paradise. If it wasn't for the lack of mead and boar, I'd say this was the afterlife and that I'm already dead :P 

Today I went to the Dundreggan Estate (::read more here::) to help with the efforts of replanting the Caledonian forest. I left Inverness train-station at 09:00 this morning, so I was up fairly early in order to get ready and to the city for that. The journey to Dundreggan was certainly scenic. I saw deer. It was a silvery landscape; everything was covered in glittering crystals of hoar-frost. Mist from the sea, the lochs and the rivers hung trapped between the mountains. Things are beginning to look distinctly wintery, but the snows haven't come this far down yet; the peaks shine white, but the slopes and the valleys are still autumnal.

River Moriston

Dundreggan Lodge was at the end of a lovely drive, shrouded in mist. Things were less wintery, more autumnal - the trees have golden leaves, which have begun to fall, and the grass, while frosty, was definitely not snowy. At the lodge we went indoors for a cup of tea, and a discussion of the plan of action. The discussion turned to life in bothies, being snowed in, and living in winter without running water and being cut off from modern life - I recalled fond memories of Raven's parent's farm in Wales, during deepest winter. I met a Buddhist lady, talked about life, and eyed up the Lodge's piano (but didn't touch!). 

Misty Avenue
We then went to the tree nursery, where I observed young saplings being tended, before heading off to the carpark to get organised. I borrowed some waterproof trousers, and hopped into a minibus that took us further up the mountain. Our trip was, for reasons I don't yet know, being filmed. As I got into the minibus after a group had already been filmed getting into it, I had to get out of the minibus, stand out of camera shot, and wait while the minibus was filmed arriving and everyone getting out was filmed, and then the minibus was filmed arriving again, and everyone getting out was filmed... again

We then hiked our way to the exclosure (it's an inclosure if it keeps animals in, this fence was built to keep deer out of where the young saplings were growing, so it is an exclosure), through some very, very lovely countryside. I really, really wish my photographs from my walk by the river, through the trees and up to the exclosure had turned out reasonably well, but sadly they were mostly blurry or badly taken. Instead, have a photograph of some melting hoar-frost. 

Glittery, glittery, glittery.
The exclosure is out on the heather, on some very open and wind-swept slopes.  The view was spectacular, but it isn't a place of many colours, only leaden sky and bronze slopes. 

Trees for Life have so far planted over a million trees - the millionth was planted in May of this year - and today I planted 96 more. Our target for the day was 1,000 trees, and we may well have exceeded it. Our saplings were as 'plug-plants', and all we had to do was dig a hole, put in a sapling, fill in around it, and tap it down - hard to do when the ground is frozen and there are crystals of needle ice growing OUT of it! (Although, when the needle ice formed, the ground had not yet frozen.) I also spent an awful lot of time talking with a chap who turned out to be a fellow LARP enthusiast, gamer, guitar player and person with an interest in swords, knives and weaponry (and who once fenced sabre) - it's amazing the places you meet like-minded folk.

Trying to put up a fence,
Dec '11. Photo by M. Drury
It rained, then sleeted, and I got very wet, and my waterproof trousers proved not to be very water-proof, for water and mud seeped through and my legs got soaked, and then chilled by the cold, cold wind. Tree planting with Trees for Life is certainly a rewarding task, but generally involves mountainous hikes and inclement weather, followed by hard work, so is something for adventurous and outdoorsy types. As well as the day trips like the ones I attend, they also run conservation weeks, with accommodation, for those who would rather do something useful when they take time out of their regular lives. I've been volunteering with Trees for Life since last autumn/winter, and while my trips are always an adventure, and every time I go out I go "I'm never getting that cold and wet EVER again!" and then every time I get the chance to go again, I'm rushing to sign myself up.

I would like to clarify to readers that despite certain rumours, I am not a Pictsie, am very much alive, and am decidedly Franglais. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Domesticated: Now on YouTube

Domesticated Goth now has a YouTube Channel! 

I want to start vlogging, making cookery videos, and craft/sewing how-tos. I'd like to start with an introduction and Q&A session, but first I need questions! You can ask questions here, or on the Domesticated Goth ::Facebook page:: where you can also suggest topics for blogs, or ask questions for me to answer in written form, or ask for craft how-tos. Ask me questions about being Goth, about blogging, and suchlike :) I may not be able to answer all questions in the video, but I'll be able to answer a few (and will probably write replies directly to the comments).

Please ask your questions below or on FaceBook!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Synthetic Aesthetic & Hypocrisy

Recently, Amy of ::Stripy Tights and Dark Delights:: wrote ::this:: post on Goths that denigrate people of a certain popular aesthetic (Essex Girl in the UK, Jersey Shore to an American, I would guess that a lot of places have their equivalent) for being "fake" because of the fake tan, fake eyelashes, bleached hair, fake nails, hair extensions, heavy makeup, bust augmentations, etc. etc. I am probably repeating what she said here, but it is an important message, so I feel like reiterating it in my own words on this blog 

A lot of Goths and other Alternative types are just as "fake". I certainly go around with a corseted waist, a wig, fake eyelashes, heavy makeup, a pallor that is partly nature and partly makeup (more to even it out than make me paler), high heels, piercings etc. My waist is not naturally that thin, my hair is is not actually red (not even by dye), my eyelashes are pretty long, but they don't come with feathers, and I got all those jewellery-attachment-points through having someone poke holes through me! I go to great lengths to achieve a particular aesthetic, and that is all that these 'Essex Girls' are doing. There are people who have had far more extensive body mods than me; more piercings, elaborate tattoos, and even fangs, pointed ears and horns, all in search of a particular aesthetic. This is certainly a synthetic aesthetic, one that is created through artistry overlaid on nature. 

Usually someone comes in with the justification of something akin to 'oh, but they are following a trend, to them it's about fitting in and appealing to men and getting attention, they must be really insecure! We do it in the pursuit of our own personal aesthetic!' 

Who are we to judge? 

Unless you know someone well enough to have good estimation of their real motivations, you have no business judging someone. It is the same sort of prejudicial assumption as when mainstream people assume that we dress and look the way we do for attention or to rebel against our parents or to opt out of decent society. Considering the time and money and effort spent on a lot of these women's looks, I would say that there has to be a significant proportion who really are chasing their dream aesthetic. Yes, there certainly are those who follow that aesthetic to be trendy, to get attention, to impress men, because they are insecure with who they are under the fakery, etc. but there are also people who co-opt the Goth aesthetic in order to get attention, to impress men, to be rebellious, to try and shock people, because they are insecure with who they are under the fakery, etc. It is unfair to judge a group by the action of individuals who are not necessarily representative. It is easier to distinguish a Goth from someone co-opting the aesthetic, because there is some broader definition of Goth, but the 'Essex Girl' aesthetic is just an aesthetic (the party animal lifestyle, drinking, etc. are not inherent; plenty of people who don't follow this look behave like that, and not all who follow this look behave like that); there is no co-opting it away from a broader subculture. 

Basically, this is an encouragement not to judge; instead take people on their individual merit, on their own actions and behaviour. How somebody looks is not necessarily and indicator of what they are like, as we should all well know. A dose of humility and an open mind are good things to have.