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 June 2015


Today Inverness hosted its first ever 'Zombie-Ness' zombie walk and zombie street game. This was run, it seems, by the city, and was a test-run for adding a zombie-walk to the yearly city summer festivals programme! I love dressing up, monsters and being ghoulish, so had to take part. Several of my friends went too, and I would estimate a couple of hundred people took part.

One of several photos taken by Raven

People seemed to be more amused than scared, and lots of Inverness citizens and visiting tourists alike wanted pictures of us, and with us. Lots of children took part, and quite a few children who weren't taking part and who spotted us thought we were great fun, and I didn't see any children getting scared; I think they understood it was all just fancy-dress. One little boy had a toy gun with a clicker that made a loud "clack" each time he pulled the trigger, so I completely over acted being 'shot' and collapsing in a heap only to lurch up again. The little boy seemed to think this was brilliant and I had to give up falling in heaps because I was going to scuff my knees!

Raven's Zombie selfie... note the "zombeard" and bullet-wound effects

The aim of the street game was to look for people designated as "zombie food" who registered, but were not in costume. People who were "zombie food" were given green wrist-bands and if they encountered a zombie, the zombie had to high-five them and that person was now 'infected' and had to go to the Zombie-Ness head-quarters where a team of theatrical make-up artistis from Eden Court would give them zombie make-up. I came as a zombie, but went to the Zombie-Ness make-up crew for a touch-up because my fake blood was faded, my make-up a bit tired from all the fun, and I also had room on me for more decay, so they fixed up my face with more fake blood and added rot and sores to my arms. Raven came as "zombie food" but got caught by a zombie, so got a zombie make-over, including bullet-wounds to the head - it seems that the usual means of zombie slaying ("aim for the head") does not work on Highland zombies! 

Raven's Photo of me in the cafe on our break from 'zombing'

B., whom I know from my previous job, made a wonderful platter with a plastic 'brain' under a scalp-cap, and was wandering around as a zombie waiter, which was brilliant. He is also a fan of dressing up, especially when it comes to spooky costumes (and always does something utterly amazing for Halloween) so I expected to see him there. My friend Victoria and her friend Lauren both came as zombie brides, and did rather fabulous costumes for those. Another friend came as a zombie school-girl (moaning "homework suuuuuuucks!" in the slurred growl of the undead) and I went as a zombie Goth (despite being more of a punky Goth than deathrocker today, I made plenty of 'deathrocker/deadrocker' and 'undeathrocker' puns. I just had to!) and I saw a zombie 'policeman' and a little boy zombie on a skateboard. 

We had a great day out, both with the street game and zombie walk, and with meeting up with good friends. I look forwards to more zombies next year, hopefully with even more participants! 

There are more photos from today that were taken, but I have not heard back from the other people in them as to whether I can post them on my blog yet. There may well be an edit of this post in the next few days with extra photographs! 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Ice-Skating, Botanic Gardens and River Ness

On Saturday, my friend Mavis invited me out to go ice-skating because Inverness Ice Centre apparently has cheap public skating on a Saturday afternoon. It was £5 for over an hour of skating, with an extra £1 for skate hire. Other people certainly bought their own skates, so that is an option. Both Mavis and I have been ice-skating before - but both somewhere between 12 and 15 years ago! Neither of us could remember how to ice-skate. By about my fourth or fifth circumnavigation of the ice-rink, I finally remembered how to skate well enough to stop hanging onto the wall and skate relatively freely with a little confidence. I even remembered how to turn on the spot and approximately how to stop without falling over. We both thought we'd escaped from falling onto the ice, right until 8 minutes before our session was over, when Mavis fell onto the ice. I came close several times, but thankfully the edge wall was there to save me, although I did do some rather ungainly slips! Mavis was a bit bashed but mostly OK. 

Photo by Mavis. Editing by me.
After we went skating, we thought about visiting Inverness Botanic Gardens (Floral Hall) which is pretty much nextdoor to the ice-rink, but they were just closing up. Instead, we posed for photos by the exterior of the perimeter wall, which had some rather pretty climbing plants growing on it. I get a little creeped out by certain bugs, which Mavis kept insisting on talking about, and I started getting worried that there'd be some in the bush I was posing by, hence why some of the poses get further and further away from the bush! I'm not entirely sure what the flowers were, but they were quite pretty. I am also not entirely sure how old the stone wall is; it looks quite old, but I'm not really sure how to tell beyond the profusion of lichens and the rather established climbing plants. 

Photo by Mavis, editing by HouseCat.

My thanks go to Mavis for taking these photos. She took them on my rather dire phone camera, so I am impressed that they came out this well because it is very rare for any photograph taken on my phone to come out well. It works better outdoors, certainly, but these are far nicer than my outdoor shots with the same phone camera. I did the editing afterwards because they were on my phone, but all I did was crop them down to squares, tweak the contrast slightly and apply the 'dusk' filter from ::PicMonkey:: because the grey weather made everything look dull, so all the actual photographic stuff was done by her.  

Photograph by Mavis, editing by HouseCat

My outfit might look like it's a bit much for the day before the midsummer Solstice, but the weather was grey and prone to rain showers, plus it was obviously going to be cold in the ice-rink, so I was wearing my thick and warm winter tights, a skirt with petticoats, bloomers, and a slip under my corset, blouse and dress... with a shrug! While I was skating I did think that it might have been sensible for me to have been wearing lace gloves. I almost always wear lace gloves, every single day, and the one day I don't (because I do have to wash them all occassionally) is the one day I regret not wearing them... typical! 

Photo by Mavis, Editing by HouseCat

My hair is currently pastel turquoise because that is what colour the green fades to when it has not been dyed in a while. My hair has become very fine and brittle after being repeatedly bleached, and my roots are growing out. My work have not made any complaints about my pastel-coloured hair, so I have not dyed it back to dark green. I do not mind covering up the bleached hair with dye, but I do not want to have to bleach my roots, as I do not want my hair to get any more damaged. My hair is snapping, both at points where it has been bleached and at points in the new growth, and it is also simply falling out. I naturally have rather thick, straightish hair that grows into a wave as it gets longer, but it is noticeably thinning around my hair-line, and also instead of growing into a neat wave, the ends curve and kink in all sorts of frizzy directions. I am laying off the hair-dye and bleaching for a good while! I have actually got nearly 2 inches of regrowth, but I am posing to try and avoid showing this. I do not plan on dyeing or bleachung my hair again until September, and I will need to get the fried-looking ends trimmed out of my hair, as the constant snags probably are not helping the snapping problem.

Photograph by Mavis, editing by HouseCat
The outfit I am wearing is: a ruffled blouse from eBay from one of many Chinese importers, a secondhand Bodyline dress that is from their 'separates' range and a bit short for Lolita so I wear it as a Goth dress, my favourite crochet lace shrug that was originally from Tesco but also bought secondhand, thick winter tights from Tesco, and a pair of very comfortable brogues with a slight heel from Gabor that I bought secondhand. I was wearing some extra layers under all that, including an underbust corset. I love thrift shopping, eBay shopping and scouring alternative-specific secondhand sales pages for bargains; it is the cheapest way to get nice Goth clothes.  

Photo by Mavis, edit by me
After we stopped for photos outside the Botanic Gardens, we wandered down towards Ness Islands. It turns out that it was the same day as the grand opening of the new skate-park on the ice-rink/Aquadome/Botanic Gardens side of the river, so we paused for a minute to watch people doing stunts on all the new ramps and things. There were people on rollerblades, stunt bikes, skateboards, etc. I used to do rollerderby on quad skates, and when I was younger I used to do a few stunts on inline skates (but nothing spectacular) and watching the kids (most of the people there were younger teens) on their skates made me a little bit jealous, but considering my unbalanced performance  on the ice skates, and considering that I have a co-ordination, balance and spatial awareness disorder, I probably won't try and join them any time soon. I no longer bounce like I did was younger,  and these days I risk actually injuring myself. 

Photograph by Mavis. Editing by HouseCat
Inverness has a series of pedestrian suspension bridges across the River Ness - two at Ness Islands,  and two between more central points within the city, so four in total, and the two bigger ones downstream are both of a rather pretty design. The two at Ness Islands are smaller and narrower, and replacements built in 1987/1988 for much nicer and sturdier-looking Victorian era suspension bridges (which were a replacement for earlier suspension bridges that got washed away in a flood...). The general idea was maintained in the new design, but it just isn't quite the same, and whenever anybody jogs or walks quickly across either of the bridges, they bounce like a trampoline which is really quite unnerving! The Happy Pontist blogged about them ::here::. 

Photograph by Mavis, editing by HouseCat

I also took some photographs of Mavis on the bridge, and she took some of me. My phone camera struggles with varied lighting, and the bright grey-white sky and reflections off the river really threw it, leaving the edges of the photos faded and my pastel hair looking almost as if it were glowing. In my edits for these photos I decided to enhance this effect and further fade out the edges. I darkened myself and the background slightly, too, in order to boost the contrast a little. The final effect makes me think of how I sometimes remember dreams; there are items, events and people who seem as clear as in reality, but then the setting seems to fade away into obscurity around them. My hair blew in the wind and went up above my head, all floofy, and my phone camera captured this really badly, so I just coloured in the blurry mix of white, brown, and turquoise with a turquoise to match my hy hair and make it look less like some weird monster had landed on my head. 

Photo by Mavis, editing by HouseCat
Mavis had never been for a proper walk around Ness Islands before, so we walked down to the bench and stoney prominance built into the flow of the river at the most upstream point of the islands, and then across all the various foot-bridges down to the most downstream end of the islands and then walked back into the town down the South bank of the river, passing lots of lovely houses and gardens, and then going up to ::La Tortilla Asesena:: for tapas. I had never had tapas food before, so that was certainly a novel experience for me,  and it was all rather delicious, especially the churros I had for desert. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Ouji Make-Up Help Request

Now, I am usually quite good at coming up with my own make-up ideas, especially if they are of a more dramatic sort, but I am struggling to work out what sort of make-up to wear with this sort of outfit. I don't want to go for my usual dramatic look with the foliate swirls and heavy black eye-shadow, but to do something more in keeping with ouji ("prince") style of Japanese fashion. If anybody has any links to good make-up tutorials that are accurate to what is usual with ouji fashion, I would love to know.  

Tricorn hat + Ouji fashion

I have applied mascara and a bit of kohl, with concealer over a couple of reddish bits, but that is it for make-up in this photo. The rest of the outfit is a slightly off-white (but very, very nearly white) blouse by Meta, a black velvet waist-coat (vintage Marks & Spencer's), knee britches from Bodyline, and diamond patterned black and white socks, with black brogues with a silver buckle. The jabot shown belongs to my partner, and is hand-made and bought off the internet, but he can't remember where. The tricorn is a plain hat I bought and then altered (I will show-case it properly at a later date) and has pleated chiffon on the underside of the brim, a large brocade bow and some other details. I have interchangeable ribbons for it depending on what colours I might want to wear with it.

Any suggestions as to make-up are requested. Please send me your suggestions!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Summer International Lolita Day 2015

Photo by Surrealistic Meow
For this year's Summer International Lolita Day, I decided to make a trip down to Edinburgh for the Scottish Lolitas Community's big event. They hosted a very posh tea-party at the Royal Howard Hotel. Now, for those who don't know Scotland, Edinburgh may not sound like a big trip, but it actually entitled a bus trip to Inverness, and then about four hours by train to Glasgow, and then another hour and a half by train from Glasgow to Edinburgh. I ended up wearing my Lolita co-ord on the train to Glasgow, but sitting on my petticoat for four hours flattened out my petticoat, so I had to borrow a second one off my friend K, who now lives in Edinburgh but is one of the founding members of the Highland Lolita Community. 

The weather in Glasgow was damp and a bit blustery, but was nothing compared to the weather in Edinburgh. Edinburgh train station (the central one) is in a valley, and quite sheltered, so when I got off the train, I didn't think it was too windy, even if it dishevelled all the chiffon in my outfit. I had missed meeting up with the other Lolitas travelling from Glasgow in Glasgow Queen Street station, so met up with them at the station in Edinburgh. I had arrived a bit late, because I had missed that the train we were catching had been changed to catching the earlier one as I had not had internet access and missed the communications, but the others had waited and I was glad of this as we were all walking as a group to the hotel. The other girls took the escalator up all the stairs, but because of my balance and co-ordination issues, it is actually easier for me to walk up static stairs because I find it very hard to constantly adjust my balance on the moving stairs of the escalator and have a tendency to fall on them, and I actually got to the top of the stairs first, and found out just how windy it really was! It was blowing something of a gale. I was leaning into the wind, and letting it catch my petticoats and huge bell sleeves and could feel it pushing back! Walking through the wind to the hotel totally tangled all of our wigs and dishevelled all the moveable bits on our co-ords.

Once we got to the hotel, we were glad to be inside. I was rather impressed with the period decor in the hotel, and it is very beautiful and reminded me of the stately country homes I have visited in England. I did not feel like I was in the midst of a metropolis at all! The Edinburgh Lolitas and those who had got there earlier were already sat down, and our tabel was ready and waiting for us. Once we were indoors and sat down out of the wind, introductions were made and we began chatting. 

Photograph of Eleanor and I and the spread, taken by Hazel
The food was absolutely amazing, as hopefully is visible from the photographs. On the bottom tiers of the stands there were delicious sandwiches including brie with mango, which is probably my favourite sandwich filling ever! There were also tiny haggis balls on cocktail skewers, which was something I have never encountered before. The second tier had scones of various sorts, and the top tier had brownies, miniature tarts, and trifles topped with lemon curd. We each got our own tea menu from which to choose a pot of tea, and I chose roiboos tea. The hotel has its own special blend of black tea, which I was tempted to try, but I cannot resist some good roiboos tea.

Photograph copyright of Photobara
It was really nice catching up with both members of the community I already knew, such as ::Oh Velveteena:: and meeting new people and making some new friends, such as H. who took the photograph above. H. is an entrepreneur who has started her own cupcake boutique. I am not always the most socially fluent person, and I can get "word vomit" when I am nervous or just clam up entirely, and I managed to avoid most for the most part, and everyone was very welcoming and friendly.

There was a Lolita quiz, with prizes, and everyone was automatically entered into a raffle draw. My prize from the raffle was a lovely floral mug, which is unfortunately still at my friend's appartment in Glasgow! I drank tea out of it the morning of my departure, and somehow forgot it entirely! We had an official event photographer, ::Photobara:: who took the photo immediately above. Each of us got three outfit photos, and she also took photographs of the event in progress. 

Photograph by Surrealistic Meow
K., Hazel and I walked back to Edinburgh train station together, and chatted, and then I met up with Sarge and his girlfriend, who I was staying with that weekend. I was so tired out from the meet and everything that I actually dozed off on the train back to Glasgow, which is incredibly rare for me as I usally find public transport far too stressful and public to sleep on! It just goes to show how very tired I was. After we were back in Glasgow, Sarge's girlfriend who is an arts student (focusing on ceramics) and photographer at ::Surrealistic Meow:: went out in Glasgow with me and I posed in a lot of door-ways, by the Gallery Of Modern Art, and other such places, including in Sarge's appartment block.

It was altogether an amazing day, and I had a lot of fun. My thanks go out to everyone at the ::Scottish Lolitas:: who organised it.  

Co-Ord Rundown:
♕ Veil: Hand-made by me, with bought fabric flowers from Claire's Accessories ♕ Wig: Lockshop ♕ Blouse: New York Laundry, with lace collar added by me ♕ Necklace: eBay ♕ Dress: Metamorphose ♕ Underskirt: Hand-made by me ♕ Tights: H&M ♕ Shoes: secondhand on eBay, not sure who made them ♕ Gloves: handmade, but I can't remember who by, someone on Etsy.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Parasol Tips For Summer

Summer is here! It is June, and for those of you that aren't under the current gloom that currently hangs in heavy clouds of the Highlands, there might actually be sunshine. 

There's two ways to go about parasols; one is going for the proper lace and/or fabric parasols designed soley to keep the sun off and look amazing while doing so, and the second is just to use your umbrella (which actually means shade!) which is good for both the rain and still keeps the sun off if in a dark and opaque colour (obviously transparent ones don't work so well, and can actually act a bit like a greenhouse in the summer!) and are also an option for those who think actual parasols are too frilly and fancy. If anyone asks you why you have an umbrella up in the sunshine, just look confused at them and say "to use as a shade??", because they are clearly not being practical! If you live somewhere like Britain where the summer weather is highly changeable, having a shade that is also waterproof can certainly come in handy. There are also quite a few Goth and Goth-friendly designs for umbrellas on the market, so it should not be difficult to find one that suits your tastes. 

When it comes to lace parasols, not all are made equal; for one to effectively act as a shade, the main canopy needs to be as opaque as possible, which means either a dense lace, or a mixture of fabric and lace. Do not be fooled by the costume parasols with thin, open lace; often the lace is not very pretty in person, the mechanisms cheap and break easily (I know this from experience, buying a few when I was an inexperienced babybat) and they provide very little shade. A white and opaque parasol will reflect light away as well as shade you, and can be incoprorated into both all-white outfits and black and white outfits, whereas a black parasol while more traditionally Goth, can itself get quite warm. A black fabric parasol with white overlay would be best, both aesthetically pleasing and reflective on the outside and absorbent on the inside, so that sunshine that gets under the parasol is not reflected back onto you! Also, all sexes and genders of Romantic Goth, Gothic Lolita, etc. look equally awesome with parasols; they are not a gendered thing. 

A D.I.Y. option for a parasol is to take the mechanism of an old umbrella, strip off the waterproof fabric/plastic carefully, and copy the pattern in a fabric of your choice. This is a good option for those who don't like the lacy aesthetic of the traditional, Victorian and Edwardian style of parasol. You can opt for bold stripes, or a funky Halloween fabric, or do something really cool with block colours and the remains of ripped up tights for a Deathrock or Horrorpunk style. The limits are the limits of your creativity and skill! I will making a "Frankenbrolly" later this summer by using the ornate handle off a wrecked vintage umbella, the canopy from one of the pagoda-style umbrellas, and a new metal pole for the shaft, ready for autumn (not when the rain begins, but when the rain intensifies...) and I will post that up here when it is made, with a bit about how I do it.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Goth Make-Up On A Man!

My friend was feeling a bit down, and so I invited him and a mutual friend over to mine for an evening, they made him tacos and I did his make-up. 

Photograph and make-up by HouseCat. 

He tends to wear a mix of Romantic Goth and 'corp-Goth' fashion - a fondness for black shirts, waistcoats with nice buttons, brocade ties and cravats, black suits in slightly vintage cuts, etc. etc. I tried to do make-up that would suit his outfit, but my the designs I know well enough to try on someone else are all based on designs that go with the fully Romantic Goth outfits I usually wear. He wanted to look "full on Goth" and requested the same sort of swirlies that are ubiquitous and characteristic of my personal make-up style.

I very rarely get to do make-up on another person, so that was its own challenge. I actually think it is easier than doing it on myself with a mirror for the simple fact of it not being done in a mirror. I don't like doing eye make-up on other people because I am worried I will accidentally poke them in the eye, plus people are always twitchier when someone else is doing their eye make-up than they are doing it themselves - hard to draw on swirlies or eyeliner when the person is twitching!

A lot of people assume that if a man wears makeup he is either gay or genderqueer because make-up is seen as a female thing; my friend is heterosexual and cisgendered. Make-up is for anyone who wants to use it. Personally, I think the Goth scene in recent years has seen a reduction in elaborate and dramatic make-up, especially on men, and as I quite like dramatic make-up (and drawing swirlies), I would like to see a reversal of this trend. 

How I Came To Realise I Was Goth

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is "How did you become a Goth?", but I don't think I became anything, I think I just followed the road marked out by the things I like.

I think my preferences happen to align with the Goth subculture in many ways, but when I decided "I am going to be Goth" it was not really with any understanding of what Goth was, and what I became was a pretentiously 'rebelious' teen for a few months, and then over the next few years discovered more and more of how this subculture I had chosen for all the wrong reasons was actually home for all the right reasons. Usually, when I am asked this, I have to either explain in conversation, or at best get a paragraph or two to write - I wanted to write out the story of this chapter in my life a bit more fully. I've written thousands of words here, I know, but even that has not touched on everything.  

One of the things I have written about in the past was ::this article:: on how Church music, and spending a lot of my childhood in various ecclesiastical buildings has influenced me. I looked at these incredible structures towering over my head, lit by the sun shining through stained glass, interiors often painted white or beautifully decorated with murals, filled with richly carved wooden furniture, the music of the choir and the sound of pipe organs, and to me this was the closest to Heaven you could find in the human world - I always felt the wild was the closest you could get to Heaven while still alive, as far away from the rest of the human race as possible, but the beauty I experienced in church made a close second. I rarely felt spiritually connected by church services, but I felt something close in singing old polyphonic choral songs with the choir, when the harmonies rang out just right and summoned a glimpse of something holy and glorious. If Heaven had cities, in my imagination, they were entirely built of medieval Gothic architecture, like the illustrations in old manuscripts of white shining cities of spires and towers, and filled with music of angels singing. I was never entirely sure there actually was a Heaven or a Hell, but I liked to imagine that there might be, just so there could be somewhere perfect and untainted.

It was never cool amongst those I encountered to have this sort of imagination, especially as a child, not even a teenager. It wasn't something I could share with other children - even my more religious peers seemed to think there was something a bit dorky or strange about my feelings, and very few seemed to have any sort of personal religious experiences. I was starting to have more and more of those sorts of experiences... but outside of Church and the framework of Christianity (but this would diverge into the territory of "how I became Pagan"). 

I definitely became aware at quite an early age that my reaction to this sort of thing was unusual, and as my peers became teenagers, and my spirituality diverge further from Christianity, I felt quite isolated and unique (in a bad way) in my reaction. I don't think I actually am unique, just that during that point in my life, there was nobody I knew who seemed to have the same reaction, to feel the same way and as strongly. Perhaps they did, but those people were probably adults and felt uncomfortable talking to a small child about these sorts of things, or perhaps other children who felt like this had the social understanding to realise that speaking up about these sorts of things wasn't considered normal. I seemed to see jewels in the pictorial windows where others only saw painted glass, and the glory of the Divine glittering in the candle light where others just saw fire, and heard the voices of angels echoed in the practice of the parish church choir where other people just heard accidental dischords and humble harmonies.

This difference between how I felt about Church was one of the many things that taught me the bad habit of not talking about what made me happy because it would often just be something else that set me apart and probably get me into trouble. Being able to openly talk about what I enjoy is probably the greatest blessing of the Gothic subculture. I have this blog, I am a member of online communities, I have Goth and Goth-friendly friends, and I can actually rejoice and talk at length about what I love, openly, freely and with enthusaism, knowing that others feel the way I do about these things and share that passion and interest. 

I didn't feel any connection to the Christian concept of God, but I could see there was something genuinely Divine in truly spiritual art, and the first spiritual art I came across came from a Catholic and Church of England context, so I wasn't aware yet that I would feel the same when I came across Buddhist chants, statuary and artwork, or that I would feel completely humbled by the sky at Stonehenge rather than the stones themselves. I guess in some ways this sort of strong emotional connection to the art, architecture and music of medieval to Victorian Britain and Europe gave me a direct connection to the Gothic in the art historical and literary meanings of the word.

When I was at primary school and the other girls in my class started caring about being pretty and fashionable (or at least wearing the kinds of clothes popular with other girls their own age, rather than fashionable in terms of what grown women would have considered fashionable in the mid 1990s), I was more interested in wearing tomboy clothes and my big black duffle-coat, and a bit later, when I tried experimenting with make-up, I decided I wanted to look scary rather than pretty and drew my eyebrows in arched and pointed, and painted my lips deep red; when other girls wanted to be a Spice Girl, I wanted to be Morticia Addams. Later, in my early teens, I decided that purple and black eye-makeup like a tonally-shifted Cleopatra was what I wanted - not a long distance from the Siouxsie-esque dramatic make-up of Trad-Goths! I think this is when I started to realise that a) what I cared about in regards to my appearance was not really in line with what most other people cared about or thought was the "right" way to look and b) that not looking "normal" was going to get me bullied even more.

For a while after I started boarding school, I decided that as it was a clean start that I would at least try and look normal and fashionable, but I could never quite get the look done 'right'. Like the rest of my attempts to pass as normal and give the impression of normalcy in order to try and fit in, it just added to my fears and anxiety, and left me feeling constantly worried about when I would be "found out" as a "weirdo" and "freak" - something that came about soon enough. My feigned interests in popular culture was always caught out as faked when I just didn't have the shared cultural knowledge base of those genuinely interested, when I couldn't pretend to be enthusiastic convincingly enough, when I made a constant stream of little faux-pas, when I accidentally let slip my genuine interests... 

I eventually gave up the pretence for the sake of my sanity, and it was at this point I used my mistaken idea of Goth and attemptedly Gothic fashion choices as a way to signal that yes I was a "weirdo", a "freak" and "creepy", but that I was PROUD to be those things, and that maybe those who had been bullying me and ostracising me ought to be a bit afraid - of course, with my attempts at Goth being so poorly executed, I think I managed to be more pathetic than intimidating, but at least I felt confident at the time, which is more than I had ever been before. I would imagine that this last paragraph resonates with quite a few of my readers, as this seems to be quite a common experience amongst Goths and other Alternative lifestyle folk.

Of course, I was not really a Goth at that point, or really part of Gothic culture - I had grasped onto something through which I felt I could resist the pressures around me - both by rebelliously trying to appear as the antithesis of what was expected of me and the opposite of what those around me lauded as good and proper, and by doing something that felt very freeing, as I decided to shed all that was conventional and desired of me, and do something outrageous, something that meant I would never again have to pretend to be "normal" by the very narrow standards of those around me. This initial "Goth" phase was short lived, but I had thrown off my shackles through it, and it started me on the path to actually becoming a Goth. 

After that point, I became more interested in actually Gothic things - I had always loved science fiction and fantasy, and had already a tendency towards liking the darker parts of what I'd had access to - the latter Harry Potter books had plenty of rather Gothic themes in them, and out of all the strands in those books, these were probably the aspects I had liked most, and I had loved books like Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy. I loved the worlds these authors had crafted, full of magic, Gothic architecture, monsters, villains and people who had to accept that their world wasn't perfect and good, just as ours is not perfect and good, and as I became a teenager and started reading more books aimed at adults, I looked towards more books that would satiate this. I began with Michael Moorcock's Elric novels, with the sadistic Melniboneans, the strange and beautiful worlds, the cursed sword and other elements that while still High Fantasy of an almost surreal nature, were definitely erring towards the darker and more bloody. 

I then got into vampires and started reading the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice and their lavishly described dances through time and place as the long and fascinating lives of her vampires were recounted just drew me in - even her latter novels, which I now recognise as not necessarily being her best, drew me in as a teenage fangirl. I wanted to live life for the experience, travel the world, and have grand adventures, and long centuries to do so, like one of her vampires, and of course, have some torrid romance with a beautiful creature of the night (oh, how foolish of me!). I was also reading comics at this point, especially things from the Gotham world by DC and also Witchblade, which I initially thought horribly violent, and then thought was actually pretty cool. 

I didn't deliberately choose my reading by "what is Gothic", otherwise I would have probably read far more vampire books at that point! I just read what I found interesting, what fed my imagination, what transported me to worlds far away from the life I currently had, from my depression, from my isolation, from everything that made me unhappy. It was escapism, but at least it was imaginative escapism full of creativity and full of themes that introduced me to stuff that I probably would not otherwise have found to be interesting. I tended towards more traditional high fantasy when miserable, and then darker fantasy when I was more cheerful and thus not liable to end up morose from reading too many novels full of sadness and tragedy. 

Whether it was books (which I read a lot of), comics (which I read a few of), films (which I was rarely able to see), video games (which I think is an anachronistic term, and which I only got to play at friend's houses as we were too poor for such things) or TV (which I hardly watched), the themes, characters, imagery and setting I kept being drawn to was what I would later come to identify as the Gothic in the literary meaning of the term. I don't think that it was that these things influenced me to like more and darker things, it is that I seemed to like dark things anyway and went in search of them; these things connected with me on some inner level. 

Gothic novels are so named after the architecture that often serves as the setting, and which is often a part of the plot, or even almost a 'character' itself (I think of the the great citadel-castle of Gormenghast, for example), and that itself stirred a chord, reminding me of all the cathedrals, churches and castles that I loved (and still love, as a quick look through the 'architecture' tag in the sidebar will show!) and I felt at home there, even if these versions were haunted by monsters and ghosts. A lot of the time, in my social alienation, I felt like I might be the monster doing the haunting, not quite human, never truly acceptable. A bit melodramatic, I know, but as a teenager I think I was prone to melodrama. 

Often times, the horror of the Gothic is brought about through an atmosphere of menace, of the anticipation that something horrible is coming - and that tension drew me in. I felt like the world was closing in on me in real life, and to have fictional characters survive more terrible (and often more supernatural) terrors and live in dread of what was to come was something I could identify with, and as the good overcame the evil through personal strength, I hoped maybe I could overcome the things that were troubling me. I still struggle with anxiety issues, and, often feel like everything in my life is about to go wrong, like I am always on the brink of the next disaster (perhaps because I have gone through so many things that have severely impacted my life in a negative way, and I find it hard to believe that any respite from that is anything but temporary, even after years have passed) and as such, that ominous atmosphere was something that seemed familiar, but at the same time was distanced enough through fantasy to be safe, manageable. 

A lot of Gothic novels address the supernatural, some more realistically than others. Most opt for terrible monsters that are quite fantastical (for example, the traditional werewolves, vampires and zombies), but others are stories of magic, ghosts, spirits, and curses - things that I have experienced in the real world, perhaps not always as they are written about in fiction, but they certainly  seem very real and very much a part of our world. I am, after all, basically a witch (even if I'm not overly fond of that word). I have been having supernatural (or praeternatural) experiences since I was a child, and while modern society in Britain is often very secular, atheist and disbelieving when it comes to such occurrences, I have had too many strange things happen to me to claim they do not exist. I guess some people might think me credulous, gullible or perhaps mentally ill for those experiences, or decide that they are a subconscious expression of childhood trauma or something, but as far as I am concerned, they are as real as any ordinary thing. I am not afraid of them, nor think that experiencing them makes me special, they are just another part of the world, alongside more mundane things like trees or cars or toasters. Reading fiction that actually addressed these things, written sometimes by people whose accuracy in what they present compared to what I have experienced, and what I know about things like the occult and witchcraft lend me to believe that the authors have experienced something similar, let me feel a little less alone. Anyone who has seen The Sixth Sense knows that you can't just tell people that you see ghosts! 

(Nobody can talk of why ghost stories are still relevant quite like Neil Gaiman in ::this:: article for the New York Times)

While ghost stories and vampire novels were giving me an introduction to the Gothic in literature, and to contemporary horror writing, I was still not that much of a Goth yet, and my musical tastes were rather eclectic and I didn't encounter Gothic rock of the post-punk, darkwave, French coldwave and similar varieties until my late teens. The first music that really stirred me, from outside of classical and ecclesiastical music, was the prog rock, folk rock and psychedelia my Dad would occasionally play in the car. I was brought up with Joni Mitchell, Yes (I have my own Yes compilation CD set...) The Moody Blues (before they went commercial), Jefferson Airplane, The Strawbs, Spyrogyra, etc. etc. There are songs from that era that spoke to me, and which I still adore - especially Moody Blues songs about the emptiness of space, the vastness of the universe, melancholia and the transience of life. A turning point was when I heard Melancholy Man by the Moody Blues for the first time, when it goes into the second section, with booming synthesised organ, wailing chorus and dirging guitars - I was transfixed. A song had grabbed hold of something in a way that had not happened since the soaring descant in Allegri's Miserere in church, but this time I felt like a song was singing about someone I could empathise with. I felt like the outsider, who could not see the world like others do, and in my minds eye I was watching something halfway between the rapture and a science-fiction apocalypse as they sang... Sure, it certainly was not Goth rock, and it wasn't even the symphonic metal I started with when it came to attempting 'being a Goth', but it is that same sort of reaction to a song that I have sought after ever since. 

The next song to really change my musical perspective was Severance by Dead Can Dance. I wasn't really into any form of Goth music yet at the point where I encountered Dead Can Dance; I found a CD of theirs that looked atmospheric in the school's archive of music for theatrical performances while working on a production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller (a play about the Salem witch trials, and a metaphor for the McCarthy-era 'witch-hunt' for possible communists). The CD was 'The Serpent's Egg' and the cover and name looked a bit spooky and witchy, so I stuck it in CD player and had a listen. I'd struck shuffle instead of repeat by accident, and I think the second song I heard was Severance - again, I got transfixed by music, my head filled with visions of wide and open spaces, leaden skies, and a solitary tree with its last leaves caught on the wind, birds flying in migration formation high above me... Dead Can Dance became my new favourite band, but I didn't know how they fitted into a musical context, or what bands might be similar, so I unfortunately did not end up getting into Goth via Dead Can Dance as an entry point. 

A few years later I did finally encounter proper Goth rock - in the intermediary years  I did however get into symphonic metal (Nightwish, Within Temptation, etc.) and the kind of music that got labeled 'Goth' by mainstream media that doesn't understand what Goth is (Marilyn Manson, Evanescence, Rammstein).  While I was doing music in my late teens, my teacher/lecturer (I was studying at the local community college) a very classically minded and trained fellow, was also a bit of an ex-punk and knew quite a bit about various rock genres. I think he got a bit fed up with my ignorance on Goth, so when we had to write about an album that marked a changing point in music history, he encouraged me to pick something out of Goth rock history... I ended up listening to a big chunk of the back catalogue of the big-name 'original Goth bands' (Siouxsie Sioux, Joy Division, The Cure, Bauhaus, etc.) and was torn between writing about Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division and Press The Eject And Give Me Tape by Bauhaus... so wrote about JuJu by Siouxsie and the Banshees as I felt it was their first really Gothic album (I tried arguing that in my essay, and now when I look back on it, I'm not sure I was right - but we go to school to learn, right?). I fell in love with this genre of music I hadn't really explored before and I think finally became a proper Goth that understood what Goth actually was, where it came from, and learnt about what the subculture was like beyond the other babybats I had encountered so far. JuJu ended up the first album I bought on vinyl, and my fashion, which went through phases of experimentation with other subculturally affiliated styles but had returned to mostly Goth, fixed itself firmly in black, and my love for all things both Goth and Gothic just grew. 

About a year later I went to a Goth club for the first time, and I started mixing with the Goth scene outside of people who went to college with me or school with me in the past, and suddenly met all these wonderful people and was making new friends - actually making lots of friends rather than having only a small handful of people I talked to. I had a proper social life, I had a community I was part of, and I think I realised that this was where I belonged, and I have never looked back.