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, 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.)