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. 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.

The Gothic subculture 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, and 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 (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice 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. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Sunday, 27 December 2015

9 Gothic Social Ideas (That Aren't Clubbing)

As my regular readers know, I am an adult Goth in her late 20s, heading inexorably towards my '30s, and I am getting towards the age where my social circle is no longer centred around the club scene. I may be child-free, but a lot of my friends are now parents, and late evening/night life events mean childminding or babysitters for them. A lot of my friends have complex and varying work-schedules, and can't be up half the night because they'll have an early start the next day, or are simply too tired after a long week at work to want to go out.  Often, in these bad economic times,  it's also just not affordable to go out clubbing when you consider the cost of entry (for pay at the door events), drinks, food (even if it's just a kebab on the way home) and the taxi home. 

However, we're still social people, and we still want to meet up and be part of an active subculture, and as such seek alternative socials. In years past I have been the "organising type" and been the one to organise most of the things listed below, either as private parties or group functions (such as with Highland Lolitas), but I'm now a university student, and far, FAR too busy. 

1) The Café Meet
This is the simplest to organise, and depending on where you go, can be a cheaper option (I know places where it's £1.75 for tea and £2 for a food item). There are plenty of independent cafés in even small towns, so you don't have to fork out to spend extra in chain cafe and can still support local businesses. Independent cafés sometimes take bookings, too, if you're planning on more than say, 4 people meeting up - for example our Lolita group went to the Velocity cafe, where they have a large table, and 5 of us turned up (read about that ::here::). Most cafés are not fussed about dress, and will not be upset at a small collection of Goths turning up as long as they're well behaved paying customers. Café meets can be all ages, and younger Goths can have tea, hot-chocolate or other non-caffeinated beverages if they so choose, plus most café opening hours (in the UK at least) are primarily daytime hours, and include weekends. This means it can be a lunch-break catch-up, or a Saturday afternoon leisurely chat. 

2) The Graveyard Picnic
A bit of a Gothic cliche, but certainly not without reason. In the UK, a lot of Victorian graveyards and cemeteries were also intended as public parks - hence the broad paths and frequent benches.  It was seen as a way for people to remember death (part of Victorian mourning culture) and therefore be inspired to make the most of life, and also as a bit of greenery, a verdant space in the rapidly growing cities.  It was not abnormal then to visit graveyard as if they were parks, but this was in a time when public behaviour was expected to be more restrained than it is now, and these were not intended as spaces for loud games or sports. Over time, visiting cemeteries in a park-like fashion dwindled, and they became somewhere you only really went for funerals or to visit a grave. I do not think it is disrespectful to visit graveyards in other capacities, as long as one is sensible when visiting. I will probably write a more elaborate post on what I think of graveyard etiquette, but for now my suggestions are as follows:
⚰ There's no need to adhere to silence, but it is more polite to people who may be visiting the graveyard to pay their respects to deceased family members if you use quiet voices, and avoid shouting and giggling noisily. 
⚰ Respect that statuary, and do not clamber on it or over it; it can become fragile and brittle over time, and the carvings can be scuffed and damaged. It is VERY expensive to have markers repaired, and can be very upsetting for the families if they are damaged. 
⚰ Do not drop litter, in fact, if you spot litter, pick it up and dispose of it, even if you didn't drop it yourself. If you are planning to consume food, bring a bag for rubbish, or at least make sure you dispose of all waste in a proper waste-bin. 
⚰ Don't run about and act the fool; even older graveyards can still be visited both by people visiting their ancestor's graves, and by people seeking solitude and quiet contemplation. Charging about both endangers the statuary (and those who might trip over them) and spoils the atmosphere for those who wish to visit for more sombre reasons. 
Graveyard picnics may not be suitable for very young or energetic children who might find it hard to sit quietly for a while, and may be too tempted to climb on the statues. 

3) The Gothic Picnic
This is can range from grand events like Viona's famous Victorian Picnic at Wave Gotik Treffen, to just a few friends with a (black) blanket and some snacks. A picnic of the non-graveyard variety can be held in a public park, out in the countryside, or even in someone's garden. This is a very flexible idea, and can easily be made more "Goth" by selecting a specific theme, dress-code or just by music selection and aesthetic. The great thing about picnics is that they are very child-friendly for Goths with families. Things like black or themed napkins, bringing nice cutlery, and even aesthetically unusual or themed foodstuffs can really make a picnic feel more Gothic, as can choice of location. Personally, I'd go for somewhere with scraggly trees, a nice open patch of dry ground, and enough solitude as not to be bothered by anyone who thinks Goths are there for either their amusement or mockery. 

4)Exotic Pet Sanctuary Visit
A lot of reptile and exotic pet rescue centres have visiting days where people can visit and learn about caring for these sorts of animals. This is often an important means to fund-raise to cover the costs of looking after animals that people have handed in. Some of them even let you handle some of the animals. Going to the ::Skye Serpentarium:: with my father a few years back is what cured me of my fear of snakes! I used to think they'd be cold and slimy and horrible, and then actually held one, and found out they weren't like that at all. Some may allow for group bookings. 

5) The Tea Party
The Mad-Hatter's Tea Party from the wonderfully surreal Alice In Wonderland has brought this into the Gothic subculture, and with the influence of Lolita, where tea parties are a huge staple of the social scene, this is definitely now a popular form of Gothic social. Tea Parties can either be private affairs in one's own home, or be booked at many places from a café to high tea at a fancy hotel.  The cost of this will vary by venue, but there is a great flexibility for time and place, as well as for varying sized groups. The Scottish Lolita's International Lolita day in the summer was quite the grand event, both in numbers and location, but the small Highland Lolita group have been known to have tea in the Botanic Garden's café in a group of 3 or 4 - this idea can easily overlap with the cafe meet. If you live in the UK where afternoon tea is part of the culture, you are more likely to be able to find a tea house, cafe, restaurant or hotel where high teas or afternoon teas are offered. Holding a tea-party at home is my favourite version of this; it gives me an excuse to bring out the nice tea-sets, and set the table with napkins and a fancy cake stand, as well as to try and bake something nice for my guests. 

6) Visiting Parks and Gardens
This world thankfully has a lot of very beautiful parks and gardens in them, and sometimes it's nice to just go for a stroll, sit on the benches, and admire the planting, statuary, etc. This can just as easily be a group activity as a personal one. Some stately homes open their gardens up to visitors (usually with an entrance fee), and some public parks happen to have beautiful gardens which are accessible for free. If you are in the UK I would suggest looking at: 
The Royal Horticultural Society's gardens ::here:: 
The National Trust's ::gardens and parks::
And in Scotland specifically:
Look at ::this:: page for places to visit with the National Trust for Scotland
There is also ::Scotland's Gardens:: which facilitates opening of gardens of various sizes. 
The gardens of old stately homes often included follies, which can be especially interesting to visit if you're Gothic in the manner of 18th and 19thC Gothic novels - about the same period as when these follies were built! Plenty of gardens include a rocky grotto, especially those from the Romantic era, or those who tried to include something "picturesque". 
There are plenty of botanic gardens and arboretums to visit too, not listed above. Most major cities have a botanic gardens, and the one in Inverness is a favourite both for Lolita meets, and just for me visiting the cactus house! 

7) The Museum Visit
There's a Witchcraft museum and a Museum of Death... More conventional museums often appeal to those with Gothic inclinations - after all, history is full of murder, torture and death, plus looking at times past is a retroscopic vision of how all things pass and how weirdly decadent humanity is. Some museums are, admittedly, far more interesting than others, however. A day trip to a specific museum can be a special occasion, and a proper trip out - however I am fully aware of how expensive this can be. Many museums are now far more child-friendly (some are still endless glass boxes of shiny stuff you can't touch, but museums are often heading towards being far more interactive and educational than they once were), and can be an interesting trip out for the whole family.

8) Ghost Walks
A lot of towns have organised 'Ghost Walks' put on by companies usually catering to tourists. If you live somewhere with particular historic interest or a reputation for being haunted, you're probably in luck.  Ghost walks or tours can cost anything from £5 up, depending on who is running them. These usually occur late in the evening during peak tourist seasons, and may need booking, especially if a large group all want to go on a tour together. You don't have to necessarily believe in ghosts to go on them, as quite a few are interesting just for the narration of historic events and local legend, especially if the guide has a flare for the dramatic. 

9) Monster Movie Marathon
"Monster" here can refer to either the content (werewolves! vampires! zombies! ghouls!) or to the amount of movies watched at once. This is best for a small group of friends at home with a common interest in a specific genre (e.g horror movies, vampire movies, film noir, etc.) and requires several hours, maybe a whole a day.  Depending on the movies, this can also be family activity, for example an afternoon of Tim Burton movies like 'Nightmare Before Christmas', 'Frankenweenie' and 'The Corpse Bride. Films like the 'Addams Family' movies and 'The Labyrinth' can be good choices for older children, too. There's quite a few more "gothic" or "spooky" films that are fun for children (and age-appropriate) but also still enjoyable for adults.