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, 23 February 2015

5 Things I Would Tell My Babybat Self

I watched ::this:: video on "3 Things You'd Tell Your New Lolita Self" by 'The Adventures of Rhon and Quinn' and it inspired me to think about what I would tell my Babybat newbie-Goth self. I started off with just 3 things, and ended up with 5... I've had over 10 years of hindsight to recognise my mistakes, and I'm sure in another 10 years I'll be able to write a longer list! 

1) Just because something is black, that does not make it Goth.
This happened mostly because I could not afford to buy from proper made-for-Goth shops, and I was not very good at thrifting yet, especially as I was 14, 15 years old and didn't have much of an income, and not allowed to go internet shopping, plus I was at boarding school and not really allowed in the Goth shops in town... not that this actually stopped me from sneaking off anyway. I would eagerly grab anything that fit me and was black, and try and put it together into an outfit, with accessories that were as close to Goth as I could manage... really, I just looked a mismatched mess. I should have given some more thought to what I was wearing, and balanced desperation with patience, because I was unhappy with how I looked in what I thought was 'Goth' and this put me off fashion part of the subculture for a while (during which I experimented with hippie, Steampunk and anachronistic fashion) and not looking the part made it hard for me to get the confidence to talk to other people about my Goth interests, because I presumed they'd be cliquish as teenagers can be, and dismiss me for not looking Goth enough. I think this held back my exploration of the subculture. If I had put together flattering Goth outfits earlier, I think I would have stayed with Goth for a while longer, but I guess then I would not have learnt how to gather the medieval and fantasy elements from hippie fashion and use those in Goth, or bought some of the long velvet skirts I later dyed black, or got into Steampunk (while cross-dressing) and learnt how to do a shirt + frock-coat + waistcoat + trousers + hat outfit properly quite early on (good practice for wearing Ouji and Gothic Aristocrat fashion!). Either way, it's still good advice, and perhaps I needed to explore other subcultures anyway, and would have done that anyway. 

2) Try and get inspiration from the make-up of some Gothic icons - don't try and 'just make it up' yet!
My teenager-self's make-up skills were thoroughly awful. Dire does not even cover it. I had no idea how to blend pale foundation, no idea how to do neat eyeliner, no idea how to pick colours for my skin-tone, no idea on contouring, no idea even on how to properly tidy up my shrubbery eyebrows! Compounding this lack of skill was treating my face like a sketchbook and basically scribbling swirls on. I like swirls, but they are NEVER going to be well-achieved with a blunt kohl pencil and no real idea on how to swirl. (I feel like one day doing a make-up tutorial SPECIFICALLY on how to do snazzy swirls with different kinds of liquid eyeliners). I looked a bit like a panda that had been attacked with a Sharpie marker. Part of the problem was that I had no real idea what I was aiming for, and while there were a few Gothic make-up tutorials on the internet back then, there were far few than there are now. Modern newbie Goths - be glad you have the resources on the internet to learn from! At the time, I was probably better off having a good look at what the various female vocalists I liked were doing, and working from there - and not taking inspiration from drawings I'd found of "Gothic" characters on Elfwood! 

To newbie Goths now, I would suggest watching and looking at as many make-up tutorials as possible, and always look at the end result and try and find tutorials with good, clear photographs and clear instructions. Not all make-up tutorials are created equal. Look at several tutorials for the same sort of design and see which works best for you. Also, do not try and cover acne with foundation - it makes the acne worse and does nothing to cover the texture, just the redness. 

3) Don't take every opportunity possible to rail against the failings of the world.
I really should have learnt not to rant about the "terrible conformist world that makes everyone try and live robotic lives", why "the patriarchy is RUINING EVERYTHING" and anything else I had strong opinions on and little information about when I was a teen. I was on the right side of the argument, but I wasn't right. I also felt that being angry at "the world" and "the system" was the rebellious Goth thing to do, and I was genuinely angry at the world as I started to break out of the bubble of childhood innocence  - which was more when adults tried to shield me from how bad the world beyond my life really is; I always seemed to be a bit more aware of what was going on than most of my peers, and that wasn't always a good thing. On the receiving end of a lot of injustices myself (I'm not going to go into the details, but life growing up was hard, painful and not very pleasant), I tended to be very quick to notice other injustices in the world. I could see a lot of things were very wrong, but I didn't know enough yet to get beyond the surface reasons as to why they were wrong, or to have any idea of what I, personally, could do beyond rant to everyone who would listen about how everything was wrong, wrong! WRONG! I mostly made an idiot of myself, I didn't change anyone's opinions, effect any change in the world, or even properly ally myself with those who knew more about these things than I did. 

I actually see a lot of young keyboard 'social justice warriors' who have access to reading about a lot of issues via the internet, but seem stuck at the same place - it's easy to call people out on accidental slights, or write long blog posts on the problems you see in the world, and it helps you vent all that righteous anger that is mostly justified, but it doesn't actually do much to fix the problem. Ranting at people alienates those who might otherwise come to your side and grow to be allies. I would suggest volunteering for charities as soon as you're old enough, and trying to listen to as many perspectives as possible. It's important to have compassion for the people who disagree with you, and who are on the side of wrong, because they didn't end up there for no reason. Often, hatred is a reaction to a deeper underlying problem, often an injustice they have received. Always individuate, and try not to generalise; those particular thuggish yobs who threw stones and called you a "Goth freak" are prejudiced and bad people for throwing stones, but they do not represent everyone in a tracksuit, and they probably have hard lives themselves - not that this justifies their actions, but it does give a starting point for understanding them, and it is only through understanding that change can be wrought. 

Also, being angry at the world is not a prerequisite to being Goth. 

4) Try to listen to a wider variety of music genres.
I was into Marilyn Manson, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Nightwish... and pretty much only Marilyn Manson, Within Temptation, Evanescence and Nightwish. I 
was very narrow in my tastes, and oblivious to how qualities I liked (and still like in music) aren't genre dependent; right now I love Hozier's "Take Me To Church" and Coldplay's "Cemeteries of London" - not exactly Siouxsie and the Banshees or Joy Division! 

I went through a phase of almost ignoring the classical genres I actually really like because they didn't seem Goth enough... oh, if only I had put together then my playlists like the "Gothic Classical: Dinner Party" one I put together a short while back - excerpts of 
Léon Boëllmann's "Suite Gothique", plenty of Arvo Pärt's works ('De Profundis' is a masterpiece!), the absolutely divine and heavenly "In Paradisum" by Gabriel Fauré from his Requiem mass... I put together over 2 hours of amazing classical music with  Gothic atmosphere very rapidly. If i wanted to put together something all dark and stormy but classical, I'm sure I could easily look to lots of Liszt (Totentanz?), 'Night on Bald Mountain' by Mussorgsky or a whole heap of Sturm und Drang period music (Beethoven!). 

Also, the music I was listening to wasn't Goth - it was shock rock, Gothic metal, symphonic metal... And I didn't even know it! Goth as a music genre is a specific thing, and these artists while certainly Gothic, weren't Goth, but I thought they were. I still like Marilyn Manson's music, I still like Evanescence and Nightwish, but I feel that genres should be properly categorised. If you are a newbie Goth, try to listen for that Gothic influence in a variety of different genres of music, and try to get a good grasp of the musical history of the subculture. Without the bands of the late '70s and early '80s the subculture would have probably never crystallised into existence. 

5) Don't try and deliberately be "shocking" as a method of rebellion. 
I was a bit antagonistic and argumentative as a teen - I tried to be deliberately "scary", to mention witchcraft in a way that was probably dishonouring my religion, and make inappropriate criticisms of the faith and institutions I was surrounded by. I was lashing out at what I felt to be a very constrictive set of circumstances, but all I was doing was provoking people in a way that was counterproductive to my interests, and giving Goth and Wicca a bad name in the process. I was a very badly behaved babybat in this respect, and I am glad I did all this before social media really took off, so my impact was geographically and socially limited. I was young, emotionally immature for my physical years, dealing with partially treated mental health issues and very, very angry at the world, which to some extent explains some of my behaviour, but does not excuse it. I felt at odds with the "establishment" world, and felt like I was being pressured to conform to a set of standards and expectations that I had no interest in (and still don't) and that as I was heading to the age where I was expected to choose a career and what university I was to attend, that my whole life was going to be shaped by these pressures from my family and those around me, to become something "sensible" and "respectable" and most of all "normal" - and as I felt powerless to take any real control over my life, I decided to just try and antagonise all those who I perceived as trying to control me. All I achieved was to create more battles for myself, more unnecessary struggles in a life already full of unavoidable struggles; I made life considerably harder for myself.

My reaction to what I saw as "being forced to be what I'm not" was to try and deliberately be the opposite of everything expected of me.
 Most of these opposites were all exaggerations of myself, pushed to extremes in order to be that antithesis; I was really just being childish and contrary, these things were not who I really was. If I was able to go back and tell my teenage self some advice, I would say that I should definitely remain true to myself, but I should not react to the pressures to conform by deliberately being the antithesis of everything they wanted, because that was NOT being true to myself.  With time, I learnt that I was not always going to be under the control of others, and now I am very keen to be mistress of my own life, and to be in control of the various aspects of how I live. By the time I was 19, I ended up with a part-time job, doing creative things at college (after I had to leave school a year early due to health reasons and then take time out to recover), and I am still Goth, still alternative, still proudly freaky and very creative over 10 years later. Some of this happened 13, 14 years ago now! I have not had to buckle to 'the system', I have not been forced to conform, and I have learnt that I do not have to live the life that other people felt was best for me. 

Hindsight is 20/20. I made my mistakes, so now you don't have to!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Autumn Road-Trip 3: Rafford Cemetery

Suzy_Bugs suggested visiting Rafford on our road-trip; I think she spent some of her childhood in the area, and was keen to get us to visit this old cemetery. The cemetery itself is in what seems to be an odd location; off two main roads and away from the church. I think this is because the cemetery pre-dates the church, and while there is a small building in the centre which I think was the grave-keeper's cottage, there's no visible sign of where the church used to be. I will cover the new church in my next post. The whole place is quite low, in a bit of a valley, surrounded by wooded hills and a small village. 

Photograph by HouseCat

The photograph above is what I presume was the grave-keeper's cottage. I had a peek in the windows and open door, and it looks like it is now home to things like planters, but was once where someone lived or worked. Either way, it is fairly empty now, mostly home to lots and lots of spiders. It still has its windows, and it still has its roof, so it has managed to remain a little outbuilding quite well. 

Photograph by HouseCat

The photographs to the left, above and below are of a large mausoleum that dwarfs most of the surrounding grave monuments. The mausoleum has no roof, but does have several plaques inside, mostly over grown by ivy and brambles, so  I could not read which family are interred there. At the back I presume there had once been a plaque naming the family and which members were buried there, but that had fallen away. There were still plaques on other walls, though. The walls of the mausoleum are surprisingly thick, and I do wonder if it was initially designed to have a roof, or whether the family who had it built just wanted a sturdy monument. 

It was late afternoon and quite a bright day, so the shadows were quite strong, and everything getting slightly golden as evening approached. I think it was a rather good time for photographing. Some of the photographs I took later on were perhaps a bit too late in the day, but I think I had it just right for here, Rafford Church and the earlier photographs for Pluscarden Abbey (later in the road-trip). I think there is a window of time in the late afternoon, if the weather is suitable, that is really good for architectural photographs, because there's enough shadow to get defined planes and faces of walls and roofs (especially if there is detail and subtle angles) but it's neither dazzlingly bright, nor too dingy. 

Photograph by HouseCat

Suzy_Bugs told me that both this cemetery and the one by the abandoned chapel visited earlier have graves far more recent than the last use of their associated church or chapel because there is some rule or law that says that if a graveyard stops being used for new burials for long enough, that it can be developed over or somesuch. I'm not sure if this is exactly right, but it does pose an interesting question about how long human remains and graveyards should be left untouched in respect to those who are buried there. Personally, I would be in favour of never building over them (especially as it seems in recent years that we expand our cities and towns too much), but sometime land is unknown to be the last resting place of people because it has been disused as a cemetery for centuries or even millennia. There are a lot more factors in this debate than I can fit into a small paragraph, but it is something I'd like to hear my reader's thoughts on. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Autumn Road-Trip 2: Dulsie Bridge

While we were driving between locations, we took a detour to visit the Dulsie Bridge, as suggested by Suzy_Bugs. I really don't know much about its history. We parked up at a view point above it, and went for a stroll around the gorge-top path, and then to a little field with a fallen tree and some rather fabulous and almost fantastical mushrooms that the others took good photographs of, but which I took rather dire photographs of, so none of them are shown here. 

Dulsie Bridge. Photograph by Housecat

I think it's a very fantastical-looking location, something that could have been out of The Hobbit, or Lord Of The Rings, or maybe Game of Thrones (but the river would have to run red with blood for that set of books...). It is old, and it has been converted into a modern road bridge, but there is something both about the old stone bridge, and the deep gorge (which bears the marks of flooding quite a long way up the stone sides; I presume it runs VERY high with melt-water and rain in Spring!) with trees either side made me feel like I wasn't quite in the regular world, like I had either stepped back in time, or stepped sideways into a different world altogether, one more magical.

One of my favourite thing about old structures is how between a tendency towards materials such as local stone, and the blending actions of time, they seem to just fit naturally into the landscape. Part way through our visit, it began to rain again, and the skies grew grey with cloud. It wasn't the best conditions for photography, especially for someone who is inexperienced and unskilled like myself. I got a bit higher up the gorge, and tried to photograph along the river, but I was photographing through the trees beside me and I'm not sure how well that endeavour turned out. 

Dulsie Bridge, photograph by Housecat

Overlooking the gorge is the selections of large stones shown below - I do not know if they are a natural outcrop or the remains of a stone chambered tomb or cairn that has collapsed. Either way, they looked quite remarkable, and I had fun trying to deliberately give them fantastically vibrant colours, as if they were something from an illustrated fairytale. I'm not sure if it's really very successful; being colourful is not exactly my forte! 

Stones, photograph by HouseCat

I tried my best, and I think only the first photograph really worked. It's nice to have at least some mementos of visiting. If anyone knows more about the history of bridge, and why it is well known - other than it being rather picturesque - please feel free to inform me! More photographs from my road-trip will go up over the next few days. I visited quite a few places indeed, and I feel each one needs it's own blog post because a single post would be very long indeed - the same as when I visited Edinburgh or when I went to Rait Castle, Barevan Churchyard, etc. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Autumn Road-Trip 1: Ardclach Old Parish Church

Back in early Autumn, Raven, Suzy_Bugs, Hemlock (another Goth and photographer) and I went on a road-trip around the area between Nairn and Elgin, looking for interesting parts of the local historical landscape to photograph - old buildings, old bridges, graveyards, churches and interesting places from an architectural and historical point of view. A disused chapel and graveyard in the middle of nowhere seemed like the perfect start. 

Photograph by HouseCat. A surprisingly sunny day for Autumn in Scotland.

Instead of a rectangular, hall-like floor-plan, like many chapels of the period, or the traditional cruciform shape, it is T-shaped, with the side wing probably being an extension to an original hall-style church. It's in quite a lovely secluded location and is enclosed, along with its churchyard, with low stone wall - or rather, low from the churchyard perspective, as it is built on a terraced plateau and is significantly higher than the flood-plain below. There was apparently a church on the site before this current building, which according to the Buildings At Risk Register, was dedicated to St. Luag. 

 have tried to take the graves at angles where they're not readable,
but I think it is too shallow, sadly. No disrespect ended to the deceased or relatives.

It hasn't been used in decades. It is boarded up with the 'windows' painted onto boards over the real windows (if they're still there). The building is not open to the public, so I have no idea what the interior is like. The graveyard has some fairly recent graves for a cemetery at a disused church. I found out that the building was put on the Buildings At Risk register. The entry has a few interesting details about the building - as to its age, it was built in stages from 1626 onwards, with a lot of work done in the 19thC, and it has been unused since 1958.

A very bright day in Scotland. Photograph by HouseCat. 
The weather was particularly mild for autumn. There were light showers, but otherwise it was quite sunny. We went for a short walk in the surrounding countryside.  The river is very close by, and quite fast flowing over rock - it reminds me of the river Teifi in Wales. My next blog entry will be photographs of the river. We also took photographs of creepy-crawlies (mostly spiders, but none of my photographs of spiders came out right), plants and the countryside, which while very pretty, I do not feel fit in with the theme of this blog, so I am not posting them here. I will only be posting about the river because I like the textures and blackness of the water in the photographs I took, and feel like they are better suited to aesthetic of this blog. 

A photograph more akin to my usual style. Photograph by HouseCat.

In one far corner of the graveyard, there was a small tree, and beneath the tree were candles, a horse-shoe, some ribbons and other items that seemed to either indicate a rather unorthodox memorial, or some kind of folk-magic.  I left it alone, and did not photograph it as I did not wish to be disrespectful to the intentions of whomever person put them there.

This was just the first part of the Road Trip, and there were many more places I visited that day - all of which will be featured on my blog. 

In full colour! The sky was grey with clouds but bight. 
The area was pretty green and lush, and the rain showers really made everything seem so bright. Something about the pine woodland reminds me of parts of Canada. It really is a lovely location. For a place so secluded and long-disused, and with a graveyard, it didn't seem creepy outside. Hemlock told me a rather creepy story about inside, however, that doesn't exactly include a ghost, more something that I will simply term an "entity". Maybe at some point I will get him to write it up and share it here. 

Looking down the broad side of the church. Photograph by HouseCat
That is all for this instalment, but I will post the rest up shortly. I do hope you enjoy my architectural photographs of disused and ruined buildings. I especially like chronicling the various local graveyards, are they can so easily fall into disrepair, and I hope that maybe if that happens, my photographs may at leat be a record of what once was.