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, 13 February 2016

Fortrose Cathedral Ruins

The second stop on our little road trip was Fortrose, a town I have never visited before. I had hear that it had a ruined cathedral, but didn't really know anything about it. There's very little of the original cathedral left - just one arcade. The main building is gone pretty much entirely. ::This artist::, Kieran Baxter, did a reconstruction, which can be viewed at the link, for Historic Scotland; it shows that there's not a lot left at all compared to what was there originally. 

The Bishop's Tomb

I liked how the sun was streaming through the glassless window to illuminate the Bishop's effigy. The town surrounding the cathedral has grown up around the cathedral square, which is now like a little green park in the centre of the town. The remaining portion is still the size of a whole church, and it's quite eerie looking up into the vaulted arches (all fenced off) and in at the tombs and memorials. It was once a place of worship, but is now a mausoleum. Closing it off was probably for safety reasons, but its inaccessibility also gives a greater sense of reverence.  

Clouds And Arches

I wonder if the interior walls were once plastered and painted, but currently they are only covered in whitish lichen. I was walking around, trying to imagine the scale of what had once stood there, strolling down where the aisle would have been, wondering at what kind of roof had spanned above me, what sorts of vaults or beams, how it would have been with stained glass and wooden pews, and a choir singing psalms. I need to find out more about the local history; it seems like all the great cathedrals and ecclesiastical buildings in the Highlands were destroyed. Inverness' cathedral is small by comparison, Victorian and thus comparatively recent, and also was never completed. I sometimes think that if I suddenly became astronomically rich, I'd pay for the towers to be completed on Inverness' cathedral so that the cathedral finally has the presence it was designed to have, and so that the architect's vision is finally realised. 

Light And Shadow

The cathedral is an odd building to photograph, as you can only photograph it from the outside, but most of the really interesting stuff is on the inside. I'm a very enthusiastic architectural photographer, but not necessarily a very good one. I really like the angle I got for the picture below, bit the space was quite dark, and it's ever so slightly motion blurred because I couldn't hold my camera steady enough for the exposure required to get the detail in the ceiling. 

Vaulted ceiling

I am thinking of getting a Tumblr account, and using it just for architectural photography - not really connecting it to anything else I do as a blogger (e.g not a Goth a Tumblr, a buildings Tumblr). I know Tumblr has its problems with drama and unreasonable, immature people - I quit Tumblr once before because I was frustrated with how I'd go through tags looking for something, but find that people had tagged so much irrelevant stuff in there, plus a lot of stuff I found... a bit unpleasant. I know Tumblr has put in more stringent measures around self-harm content, and also I think around pornographic content, but these things still turn up in searches for things - I know why self-harm related content comes up in the Goth tag, but that doesn't mean it should. Anyway, despite my previous bad experiences with Tumblr, I am considering making an account there just for my architectural photography. Hopefully I stick to quite a specific content niche, I'll minimise my exposure to the negative and frustrating side of Tumblr. I'd like to share my architectural photography with a broader audience - more than just those who also have an interest in Goth, and I do wonder if Tumblr might be a better platform for that. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Photographic Friday: Gothic Revival Church By The Sea

I have to do a precedent study for college, as I am designing a seaside home in a semi-rural location, so I have been visiting a bunch of little fishing villages on the Black Isle coast as that is the area our home is for. That is quite a long way to go just to look at stone cottages with bottle-neck gables, rectangular windows and dormers ('coastal vernacular residential architecture idiosyncratic to the locality')  as lovely as they may be, so I gathered up some friends and made a road-trip of it. Raven, Catastrophe and K went with me. 

Catastrophe and K photographed by Raven; he's an awesome photographer!
The weather was a bit chilly, and partially cloudy, but a lot milder than I would expect for February in Scotland; there's still snow on the taller hills, but it's strangely mild this year in terms of temperature -  in terms of storms, it's been quite bad. Catastrophe and K went to stand right up near the sea wall and got utterly soaked by the crashing waves. Raven photographed them, and I went off to look at cottages. But I didn't JUST look at cottages... 

Above the cottages I noticed a graveyard and church... 

How can I resist Gothic Revival architecture?
I haven't been able to find out much about Rosemarkie Parish Church except that it was opened in 1821, and is in a similar style to most of the stone-built Gothic Revival parish churches in the Highlands; it's very 'Church of Scotland' - fancier than most Free Church churches and less fancy than Catholic ones. I know that many of the parish churches are very similar, but I find them all uniquely charming in their own way, and while to some it may seem "they're all the same", to me each one is different with its own quirks, and I appreciate all of them. 

I like dramatic skies and pointy arches

As far as churches go it is not the biggest, nor the fanciest, nor the most unusual, but the thing I really like about it is not just the building itself - it is its location. It is just up the hill from the beach; it overlooks a row of cottages and then there is the coastal road and the pebbled beach. The view is pretty impressive. It is an exposed place and the salt on the wind reminds you that you're not far from the sea at all. 

That's not a field beyond the hedge, it's the sea
I love these wee churches with their pretty graveyards. I've been around hundreds, and they never fail to enchant me. I've written about why graveyards appeal to me before, and while I am no longer Christian, ecclesiastical architecture still appeals to me - people have made such beautiful things in devotion to their God (and sometimes, I guess, for secular ulterior motives too) and many of the better-designed churches convey a sense of peace and optimism, or in the case of grand cathedrals, seem to be man's best attempt to build something on Earth approximating how it is in Heaven.  I think some of them got pretty close. 

I also like mausoleums...
It has its own graveyard. I would think there are quite a few who would like to be buried looking out at sea for the rest of eternity, especially in a community that was for a long time a fishing village. I really liked this Gothic iron fence - the gate seems broken, not closing properly; I didn't leave it open like that out of laziness or anything; I didn't even open it, and I didn't want to fiddle with it in case I broke it more. 

Beyond that row of graves and the hedge behind them is a steep hill and then it is, as you can see behind the fence at the rear, the sea. Rosemarkie faces onto a firth, rather than the open sea, so somewhere on the horizon will be Morayshire - the land between Ardersier and Culloden. 

This is just one point on my road-trip, and there will be more architectural photography over the next few days, including the ruins of Fortrose Cathedral. It  surprises me how many truly grand and quite vast ecclesiastical buildings lie in ruins across the Highlands - Beauly Priory and Elgin Cathedral being notable examples. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Getting Older & Not Really Changing

One thing I like about Romantic Goth fashion is that is not age-specific. I have seen it on every kind of person from little girls to older men, and it looks good on pretty much anyone, regardless of age, sex and gender, size or skin colour. Mainstream fashion seems, especially these days, to have a focus on sexually show-casing the body underneath the clothes, especially for women, and Romantic Goth fashion can be like that, but only if you choose it to be, and a lot of the time the focus is more on the clothes themselves than the body wearing them - there's too much detail, too many lush fabrics, textures, details and extravagance that steal the show. As such, my fashion sense doesn't really need to change as I get older... 

But this does not mean that my fashion sense has not changed... As a teenager this was mostly due to experimentation with different styles, but after that I think it had more to do with budget than taste. I always loved the Romantic styles of Goth, but that sort of thing either costs a lot new, or takes a lot of time and effort to track down secondhand and more budget-friendly prices. While I was still building a fancier wardrobe, I still wanted to express my being part of the Gothic subculture, so I chose more modern, plainer and casual-looking expressions of that style. 

Photo by Chance Photography

This picture is from 2010, taken at Wallingford Castle, in Oxfordshire. As you can see, I'm still clearly on the darker side of Alternative, but I'm not wearing anything particularly extravagant. It's not that I didn't have Romantic Goth clothes at that time - I did - I just didn't have enough to wear it daily, and a lot of the time I reserved it for clubbing because I was scared to damage or ruin my nicer things through everyday use. 

Photo by my sister

This is another picture, from 2008, that my sister took, again of me in Wallingford, and in it I am wearing a rather elaborate top by Raven and fancy lace tights. I was probably wearing buckle boots and a lacy short skirt; I can't really remember. I think my sister and I were going out for dinner that evening, so I had made the effort. Nowadays, that sort of outfit is pretty everyday for me, but probably with a longer skirt as it's noticeably cooler even in summer in Scotland, plus I am more comfortable covered up. 

Now I have a wardrobe that I have spent years accumulating, and which I am relatively happy with, I am not planning on changing my style much as I get older. A more sedentary life as a student has resulted in my putting on a bit of weight, but I am trying to make the effort to eat better (I don't have as much time to cook healthy meals as I did) and to exercise more; e.g getting off the bus a stop earlier so I have further to walk. This is partly out of concern for my health, but also because I could not afford to have to buy a whole new collection of Goth clothes in bigger sizes; it's taken me 10 years and a LOT of thrift shopping to accumulate what I have, and it would take me another 10 years to do that again! I can't rebuild that wardrobe in a short space of time; I just couldn't afford it, especially as my studies are so intensive that I don't have time to have a part-time job and keep up with my university work. 

Now I am a student, people often now assume that I am a lot younger than I am (by 10 years!) simply because I am a Goth AND a student; Goth is for teenagers, university is for people just leaving secondary school, and thus also teenagers, therefore I must be about 17 to 19 years old. This frustrates me, especially as I know that even with all the make-up I wear I do not physically look that young! I have crow's feet by my eyes, and laughter lines, and my skin is not as soft and clear as it once was. For some people Goth might be a teenage phase, as they explore different facets to their identity, in the same way Steampunk was a phase for me, but for many Goth is a lifelong subcultural affiliation. 

I am also getting to the age where people who know how old I really am are saying that I should have grown out of it by now - by which they usually mean grown out of wearing the fashion, as there's usually no objection to grown adults still listening to the music they enjoyed as teens, or reading horror novels or being interested in the spookier side of history or any of the other 'Goth' things about me. Apparently, I am supposed to have calmed down, with my wild years behind me, and matured into being a normal adult, with the implication that Goth is immature; that is to me, a sentiment based in ignorance.  

Firstly, most Goths I know aren't living wild party lifestyles; that tends to be preserve of young adults who seem pretty mainstream; it's usually 18-25 year olds who don't look particularly alternative that I see getting completely inebriated to the point of being paralytic and doing wild and ridiculous acts in city centres late at night - not Goths! That's not to say that Goths don't ever get drunk or do stupid things, or even take drugs, just that it's not really a feature of the subculture itself; people are diverse and you get tea-total Goths, and Goths who binge-drink. 

Goth is something that in its full manifestation stares unblinkingly at the darker side of life in ways that in some instances are really for adults only. I would actually say that if our subculture got ratings the same way as films or computer games, there'd be sections of it rated 15 at least, and plenty for over 18s only (I know that the movie rating system works differently in other countries). It is not about teenage angst, or trying to seem rebellious in the eyes of authority figures ('trying to scare your parents'); it is about finding the beauty in the darkness, and while there are child-friendly manifestations of that (Tim Burton's films like 'Nightmare Before Christmas', 'Frankenweenie' and 'The Corpse Bride'), there are also aspects that are very much for adults (the overlap with fetish culture, for example) and as so much of it is centred around clubbing and gigs, that is going to mean that active participation is going to be related to the local legal drinking age. This doesn't mean that children and teenagers shouldn't have a place in the subculture - they should, but an age-appropriate one. 

Sometimes there is career pressure to look more mundane. I know this is going to happen to me again as architecture is a very traditionally professional field, and not everyone is famous or applauded enough to get away with being as Goth at work as the wonderful ::Odile Decq:: (one of my favourite architects; I wrote about her for one of my assignments on contemporary architecture last semester). I know that, after I finish my studies, I will probably have to dye my hair a more natural colour (I plan on having it ginger or auburn... this has happened before, and I liked it!) and I know I will have to wear professional attire; something I already know how to style in ways that still express myself without seeming overly Gothic from my time working at a school. Architecture is a more creative field, so a bit of eccentricity is to be expected, which means I may have a little more leniency than if I were, say, a lawyer or an accountant.