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..

Monday, 28 January 2013

Snowy Weekend In Aviemore

❅ I Love Snow ❅
Last weekend I went South to Aviemore, to play in the snow and watch the dog sled racing, and, of course, look at the amazing Cairngorms scenery. 

The Housecat in the snow, looking at pines.
Photograph by Chance Photography

The weather was good, and bright, but not warm enough to melt the snow. The snow was, oddly, deeper than it is in our more Northerly home, and I took the opportunity to lob snowballs at Raven...  We arrived relatively early, hopped on a bus up the mountain, and then Raven led me on a walk around the race course so he could take photographs of the dogs and racing. I watched, and also looked around at the gorgeous, gorgeous scenery. 

We walked high up into the mountains, looking down over Loch Mhùrlaig through the trees. One day I am going to have to walk around Loch Mhùrlaig and take some photographs, because it is truly beautiful, and it did not matter where I stood, the view was incredible. The light, which came through shifting clouds, would suddenly illuminate patches of forest or mountain, or glisten over the snowy Cairngorm mountains. I kept trying to get Raven to take photos of the view, but he was more interested in sleds drifting around corners and dogs running side-by-side. 

There were plenty of small burns that ran through the snow and frozen greenery, some frozen over, and some too fast-flowing to freeze. What was really spectacular was looking at the frozen waterfalls turned into cascades of needle-like icicles. I really wish I'd had my camera with me to photograph some of those. It was also interesting to see the frozen upland ponds and bogs, with reeds and grasses frozen in accumulated frost and ice. 

The bus back down the mountain was packed to capacity with sledding fans, skiers and snow-boarders, and it was standing room only. I rode the bus standing all the way down the mountain road, "surfing". I'm not keen on crowded spaces, but there was a good sense of camaraderie amongst the snow-sports people. 

Altogether, I had a good time, and the next time I go, I will take more landscape photographs. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Feminism and Anti-Trans Sentiment

After a certain rant published in the Observer, there has been a flare-up of what is seen to be an animosity between transwomen and feminists (as if these two groups can be lumped into two monolithic rivals...), stemming from outright transphobic sentiment from feminists. I'd like to start with saying that I see people as individuals, and judging them on gender expression is pretty much never going to be something that I do. I judge people on whether or not they are nice to others, and that's about it. 

Feminism was supposed to be about creating a world in which men and women were truly equal, and while there have certainly been an improvement in many societies, the world is still not an equal place, not even in countries where women are legally equals, and therefore our battles are not done. Part of what feminism has fought for is seeing women as people, and not pigeonholing them by their genitals, so it seems exceedingly hypocritical when people who call themselves feminists go around pigeonholing others according to their genitals. 

I can see grounds for reasonable debate between the transgender community and the feminist community when it comes to gender essentialism. A lot of feminists believe that behaviour and character traits are not inherently caused by biological sex, and that social constructs around gender and gender expression are harmful to both women and men because they create narrow socially-acceptable ranges of behaviour for men and women to follow, and so from that viewpoint, the concept of feeling like a man trapped an outwardly female body, or a woman trapped in outwardly male body (and yes, I realise this a drastic reduction of something more complex) does not make sense, especially as there is a significant proportion of feminists who would be considered rather masculine women by the standards of society, and have fought very hard to increase the acceptance of their nature being outside of gender stereotypes and to not be labelled as manly or unwomanly for it. If you want to debate gender essentialism, then debate it rationally, cite studies and scientific research, educate yourselves and don't resort to name-calling, assumptions and other rude behaviour. Even if you are never going to agree with each other, you do not have the right to tell others how to live their lives - a little bit of tolerance goes a long way. 

To the feminists who are quite a way outside stereotypical gendered behaviour:
On this blog I often write about stereotypically "feminine" things like dresses and makeup, fashion, etc. These are only some of my interests, and a lot more of my interests are things that are traditionally "masculine", and I know very well what it is like to be mocked, bullied, and ostracised by other women for not being girly enough, and treated badly by men for the same 'reason', and I know what it's like to have abuse hurled at me in the street for not presenting as "feminine" enough for the standards of lowlife drunks. 

{It was only a few days ago that I had "Oi! Mosher! F**k off you lesbo dyke, f**k off out of town, we don't want your kind, you aren't even f**king FEMALE" shouted at me by a gang of yobs in the town centre because I happen to prefer combat trousers, army boots, a trench-coat and a short hair-style to the short skirts, high heels, and long blonde-hair worn by many party-goers that January Friday night. I was also still listening when the same yobs shouted lewd sexual comments at the girls in heels and short skirts...}

I know that it hurts when you're on the receiving end of the prejudice against those who do not conform to gender stereotypes, but the existence of transgender people does not somehow confirm these insults to be right, and it is not another attempt to say that you, as a non-stereotypical woman, ought to go become a man, because women aren't supposed to be like that. It is the way some others want to lives, and it is not an attack against yours. 

To feminists in general:
If someone born in a biologically male-sexed body has surgery to alter that body into one with female appearance, and live life as a woman, then they are going to receive a lot of the nasty inequalities aimed at women, as well as the prejudices that exist against transpeople. I can see why they'd want to join in with the feminist cause. Actually, I can see why any logical thinking person would want join in with the feminist cause; because anyone with any shred of empathy would realise that a world in which half the population are treated differently and as inferior to the other half is wrong. On a lot of feminist issues, whether someone is cis-gendered or trans-gendered should only really matter to their doctors and has no impact on the debate. Yes, there are certain health issues that can only affect cis-gendered women, and that things like reproductive rights issues are going to be particularly important to women who can get pregnant, but to outcast transgendered women from feminism because of this is equal to saying that cis-gendered women who have had hysterectomies, or are sterile, or whatever, cannot partake in feminism. 

Spend less time arguing about who does and does not get to be a feminist, and spend more time making the world a fairer place. Being mean to somebody else is not doing anything helpful to make others not be mean to you; this is playground stuff, I shouldn't have to explain it outside of work.

Oh, and never, ever get into the whole 'suffering Olympics' of trying to rank each other's woes and out-woe each other. Everyone's experiences are unique, and the amount of negativity they will get for being a certain minority will vary due to various factors. Really, this sort of behaviour is just pointless attempts at point-scoring. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

♫ Music Showcase: Contre Jour ♫

A bilingual music blog post for a bilingual band!
Un blog musical bilingue pour un groupe bilingue!

Band NameContra Jour
French Coldwave, New Wave
Languages: French, English
Origin: France


Contre Jour are a French band based in Nice. Their previous incarnation was a band called Neptune. They have had several changes in band members since then, and are currently a trio.

Contre Jour est un groupe Français basé sur Nice. Avant, ils étaient connus sous le nom Neptune. Ils ont changé leurs membres depuis lors, et sont désormais un trio.

I don't think that Contre Jour would call themselves a Goth band; to me they are a very modern styling of French Coldwave (you may have noticed that this is a genre that I particularly enjoy). From their promotional photograph, they certainly do not appear to be into Goth fashion. Their fashion choices seem mainstream, but clothes do not define. A lot of their songs are sung in English, but the songs sung in their native French are beautiful and worth listening to as music even if you don't understand French. You're reading this in English, so I presume you can understand that!

Je ne pense pas que Contre Jour s’appelleraient eux-mêmes un groupe Goth; pour moi, ils appartiennent à un style très moderne du Coldwave Français (vous aurez peut-être remarqué que c'est un genre que j'apprécie particulièrement). En jugeant par leur photo de promotion, ils ne semblent pas vraiment porter de mode Gothique. Leurs chois de mode semble assez courant, mais les vêtements ne définissent pas le style. Pas mal de leurs chansons sont en français, mais les chansons chantées en anglais sont belles, et elles aussi dignes d'être écoutées juste en tant que musique même si vous ne comprenez pas l'anglais. Vu que vous lisez cet article en français, je suppose que vous le comprenez!

To me, their music sounds like something between The Cocteau Twins, Covenant and Sisters of Mercy, with synthesisers, the type of percussion that makes me think immediately of the 1980s, high production values and eerie female vocals. Their songs are not necessarily always about darker subject matter, but enough of them are, and their sound is such that I think there will definitely be a section of the readers of this blog who will appreciate them. I think they will appeal to fans of bands like Indochine as well as the more Goth bands. 

Pour moi, leur son évoquerait un mélange entre les Cocteau Twins, Covenant et Sisters of Mercy, du a leur utilisation de synthétiseurs, le genre de percussion (qui me fait penser immédiatement aux années 80), les valeurs de production élevés et les étranges voix féminines. Leurs chansons ne parlent pas nécessairement toujours de sujets sombres, mais un bon nombre d'entre eux le sont, et leur son est tel que je pense qu'il y aura certainement une partie des lecteurs de ce blog qui les apprécieront. Je pense qu'ils vont plaire aux fans de groupes comme Indochine ainsi que les groupes plus Goth. 

I only came across them recently, listening to online radio (I think it was either Cathedral 13) and think they are brilliant. They've got a new album out this january, and unfortunately I cannot pre-order it, but hopefully I will be able to buy a copy after I next get paid. Their new album will be called PASSION/FALL and you can watch a trailer on the band's website. It looks very promising from where I am sitting. 

Je ne l'ai découvert que récemment, en écoutant la radio sur en ligne (je crois que c'était soit Cathédrale 13 ou GothVille Radio) et je trouve qu'ils sont merveilleux. Ils ont un nouvel album en vente ce Janvier, et malheureusement, je ne peux pas le commander en avance, mais j'espère que je serai en mesure d'acheter un exemplaire une fois que je reçois mon prochain salaire. Leur nouvel album sera appelé PASSION / FALL et vous pouvez regarder une bande-annonce sur leur site web. Il semble très prometteur à ce que j’ai vu.

For those decidedly interested in darker things, I think that their music video for the song 'Old Age' is both suitably Gothic in its imagery and dark in its lyric content. 'Diseased' isn't exactly cheerful, but the video of the band running around the French countryside seems a lot chirpier. 

Pour ceux qui sont décidément intéresses par tout ce qui est sombre, je pense que leur vidéo pour la chanson <<Old Age>> est à la fois suffisamment Gothique dans question images, et sombre question paroles. <<Diseased>> n'est pas vraiment la plus gaie des chansons, mais la vidéo qui montre le groupe en train de courir dans campagne française a l’air quand même assez joyeux.

Big thanks to Sarge for correcting my French translations. The next band will be from an English-speaking country, I swear. French is the limit of my modern languages, I promise not to bother you with my truly awful grasp of German (I failed it at school) if I ever showcase a German band. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year!

Happy New Year everybody! 

Click this pic!
I have New Year's Resolutions, and I have tried to pick ones that I can actually do, with measurable targets and realistic goals. None of this abstract stuff that's too wishy washy to stick to, and nothing too impossible either. I have 13 New Year's Resolutions as it is the year 2013. 

I am entering this post in Sophistique Noir's monthly theme. It's not an outfit post, but hopefully it's suitable. One of the things I am trying to do on this blog is cut down on outfit posts; I don't want this to become just another fashion blog. There will still be photographs, just fewer of my clothes.

❅ Sporty Resolutions
Sport used to be a much bigger part of my life than it is now, and I now have this gap where it used to be. I'm not quite as fit as I used to be, too. It's not just missing the actual activities themselves, I miss the social aspect, especially with the roller derby girls.

1)Get back into roller derby!
I stopped going to Derby because I simply couldn't afford it. I've decided to make sure I re-adjust my budgeting (including walking more so I spend less on transport, which is part of another resolution...) to have enough for one session of Derby per week, and to put all loose change in my Gear Fund. I've got most of my own protective gear (am picking up a nice neon green helmet soon! whee!) but I can't afford my own skates. I've been using stuff from the team gear pool, and I feel like a cheap-skate (pardon the terrible pun.)

2)Walk more. 
Theoretically I could walk my commute to work and do 15 miles of walking per day. I could also walk from work into town for my lunch, and walk back again. Actually, that part I often do! Anyway, in winter I am awfully tempted by that £9.50 for 7 day's unlimited bus journeys around the city, and try and maximise that ticket's value for money by going places by bus, out of the cold and rain, instead of walking. This is a bit lazy. Obviously, if there is a howling gale and driving rain, I will probably still take the bus, but if it's just grey or drizzly, I am going to walk more.

3)Join an archery club again.
I have posted before about my love of archery, and am wanting to get back into the sport. I really miss it! I've heard that there is another local club, and that they have indoor archery in winter, and outdoor archery in summer, and apparently they have space for new members.

4)Join a Gym.
I know this is a common goal, and most people don't stick it out past january, but looking at my funds, I won't be able to afford this until April, anyway. I am quite an active person anyway, and am not looking to "get fit", I'm looking to address certain specific things in order to improve my performance at the sports I do. 

5)Join a new martial arts class.
When I lived in England, I was learning Chen style Taijiquan and really enjoyed it. In Inverness there is an exercise and relaxation type Taiji class, but no martial Taijiquan class. There is, however a Wing Tsun class; I know how Wing Tsun split away from Wing Chun and how while there are a few similarities, it has quite different principals to Taijiquan, and suchlike, but it still looks interesting. There is also a Kung Fu place that does a variety of Chinese martial arts, but the classes are completely out of my price range. 

❅ Life Resolutions
These are more general resolutions, for everyday life. There's not really a theme to them, there just things I want to do over the year.

1) Budget better
I sometimes impulse buy, and quite frequently get lost as to what is incoming and what is out-going. When my outgoings exceed my income, this becomes a problem. I have set up, with lots of help from my Dad, a spreadsheet that should really help with this.

2)Make Sure Raven & I Have 1 Date-Night Per Month. 
We both work, we both lead busy lives, we often are both really tired in the evening, and it ends up with neither of us really wanting to cook, and both of us engrossed in our computers or a book, or some other form of minimal-effort entertainment. Putting aside some time connect more seems like a good idea, and having a specific 'date night' means that it's a scheduled enjoyable event we can look forwards to, especially when work or other things in life get stressful.

3)Go Out And Socialise More. 
I am REALLY outgoing once you get to know me, but I'm... actually a bit shy and awkward in person with new people. I'm quiet, and tend not to open conversations, but I'm friendly enough with most people, if they talk to me, but even if we do talk, I rarely talk to people again. I'm friendly with everyone, but friends with too few. Most of my good friends, my really good friends, are either in England or Wales, and hundreds of miles from where I am now. I've been here nearly a year and a half, and yet I don't have very many friends up here. 

4)Restart My Daily Gratitudes
I used to write a list of 10 things I was thankful for, everyday. This was something I did to take my attention away from things I wanted, and put it towards appreciating the things I already had. It sadly fell by the way side as a daily thing, and I would like to start doing it again. I would write the list 'blind' to the previous lists, and it was interesting to see what variety of things I came up with. I actually have a lot to be thankful for in life, but I often get quite miserable. Perhaps restarting the daily gratitudes will help me be a less miserable person.

5)Keep A Diary
Somewhere in the middle of last year, I stopped keeping a diary. I think I came to the conclusion that my days just were not interesting enough. Hopefully, if I work on making my days more interesting, I will write them down again! 

Blogging Resolutions
My last three resolutions are to do with blogging. There's a few things I can do to improve, and here are the first three I came up with. 

1) Put a new music post up every Monday
I liked my musical Monday idea, and I like doing showcase posts for bands I feel are not well-known or appreciated enough. I'm not one of those Goths who prides herself on the obscurity of my music knowledge; I figure that I should share good things I come across so that others can enjoy them. Goth is a subculture that thrives of creativity, and it should not be one dominated by a handful of big bands, because there's a lot of very good small bands, too!

2) Blog at least twice a week. 
I have been plagued by uncertainties and worries about blogging recently, and haven't had the motivation and inspiration to blog much. I hope to remedy my lack of blogging and post more. I think I will end up writing more opinion pieces. Fashion posts/outfit posts/decor posts seem to all be a bit of a cop-out from writing something more interesting and substantial. 

3) Link more to other blogs. 
There's some very interesting blogging out there, especially in terms of good craft tutorials. I will do a monthly round up of stuff I found that was interesting in terms of other bloggers. 

Hopefully I will do a reasonable job of keeping to my resolutions and I will update people with interesting developments on my blog.