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..

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Photographic Collaboration With Raven: Haverfordwest Castle

In April, Raven and I went to Wales. It was more a family visit than a holiday, and I was mostly doing work (coursework, too) but we also went on a day-trip to Haverfordwest (yes, that name is all one word). We went by train and were supposed to meet up with one of Raven's friends, but they ended up having to cancel, so we got the afternoon to wander around the town.

Train selfie with Raven.  Photo and editing by me.
Raven is reluctant selfie person!
Haverfordwest has a very prominent castle. It was pretty much the first thing I saw walking from the station, and I am, as you probably all know, quite obsessed with castles, so I really wanted to visit the castle. The weather was coming in, however, so we couldn't stay too long. 

Church with storm clouds. Photo by me, editing by Raven.
On the way up to the castle, I spotted the storm clouds above this church, and borrowed Raven's mobile to take a photograph. The photograph is my work, the editing is all Raven's work. He really brought out the impending doom in those clouds - shortly after this there was a terrible downpour. We were at the castle at the time and got thoroughly soaked!

Clouds and windows. Photograph by me, editing by Raven and I.
Another photograph of the castle ruins. This is one by me, with editing by Raven and I. Raven did the contrast and colour adjustments on the architecture, and I did the editing on the sky. I would imagine that the castle was once quite impressive, with grand Gothic windows, and quite a large building indeed. I had fun editing the sky on this one - it is deliberately a bit fantastical, although those are real clouds. 

Clouds above the ruins. Photo probably by Raven, editing by Raven.
This another atmospheric photograph of the castle. Neither Raven nor I can remember which of us took this photo, as we both tried to photograph this view. The flag flickering was the Welsh flag. Personally, I believe it was Raven who took this photograph. Raven certainly did all of the editing on this one. 

Raven in an alcove. Photograph by me, editing by Raven.
This is the portrait I took of Raven in another one of the alcoves. The original composition I tried was with him at the end of a row of several alcoves, but he was too tiny on the camera phone photographs. It took several attempts to get him in focus, too, as it is hard to use a touch screen when it is raining! Raven's always dressed in black, but he's a lot less elaborate than me in his tastes. Raven thinks this looks like what an album cover photo would look like if he  ever released one. 

Me in an alcove. Photo by Raven, editing by Raven and tweaked by me.
This is the photograph Raven took of me hiding from the weather in an alcove. Most of the editing is Raven's, but I tweaked the contrasts on my outfit a bit. I didn't have space in my luggage to bring chunky Lolita shoes, so I am wearing Gothic pikes with a Gothic Lolita outfit here! Walking around a castle in pointy shoes with stiletto heels was not comfortable, and not easy for someone with a co-ordination issue! I wish I had brought some flat Lolita shoes with me. 

Stairs. Photograph and editing both by Raven.
This last photograph is all Raven's work. I didn't go down the stairs because it had a used condom at the top, and all sorts of litter down at the bottom. I don't think Raven went to the bottom of the stairs either. As beautiful as the ruins are, it is clear they are not well looked after - so much litter, some if it quite grim, such as several used condoms, broken glass and plenty of cans and suchlike indicating people had been drinking heavily up there. There was also dog mess. It is a shame because it is an amazing ruin, a jewel crowning the town. Visiting it in such dramatic weather should have been sublime (in the more archaic version of the term), but it was marred by having to constantly watch my step, and not just because of wearing heels. There is a museum on site, and I am surprised there are no wardens or stewards to prevent people from abusing the ruins. 

Altogether, it was still a pleasant visit, even if the rain soaked us (we scurried away to a gallery and cafe to dry out and warm up) and the ruins were besmirched by those who don't respect them. The skies were beautiful and dramatic, and the castle itself is a stunning ruin. 

Monday, 30 May 2016

World Goth Day 2016: First Annual World Goth Day Picnic!

This year Inverness had its first annual World Goth Day Picnic, and I organised it! 

The assembled World Goth Day picnic contingent!
I'm hiding at the back under my hat and parasol, trying to pretend I'm short.
Photo credits are to Suzy_Bugs, who isn't shown in the photo as she's taking it!

It wasn't a big public event, I just invited every Goth I personally knew in the Inverness area to come have a picnic with me - especially as the date was after the end of my last exams and after my birthday (which was in the middle of exams!) so there were plenty of excuses to celebrate. 26 out of just about 60 people invited turned up, which considering most of those who didn't come were not doing so because of either work of family commitments, is pretty good. I didn't want to organise an official public event because that is a lot of work for something where I didn't know whether people would even want to come or not. 

I was actually surprised that 26 people turned up; I was expecting about half that. I have organised Goth events before, and in the past no more than a dozen people have turned up because it is a very small community in the Highlands, and most of the Highland Goths have at least 1 job, plus are quite spread out over a broad geographic area. 

One of my friends drove me over to the city. I have moved house, and I can't drive due to neurological issues, and it wasn't practical to take all the picnic stuff on public transport, as I had all the cups, napkins, paper plates, etc. and quite a few big bottles of soft drinks that were rather heavy. She also brought her adult-size hoops with her, and I brought my ribbons. I used to do rhythmic gymnastics as a kid, but quit due to then-undiagnosed dyspraxia making me pretty useless at it, and she does hooping, and as it was a park we were heading to we thought we'd trade skills and let some of the others have a play. We had a lot of fun, and it must have been quite surreal for the non-Goth people in the park to see Goths hooping and ribbon dancing with brightly coloured hoops and ribbons.

The picnic was held at the Bellfield Park. Initially, we were going to have the picnic at Ness Islands, but I found out less than a week before the picnic that the Inverness Race for Life 10k run was scheduled to be routed through there at the same time as our picnic (this is what happens when I am busy with university and out of touch with what is going in Inverness!), so I picked the park as a back-up location as it has picnic tables and a sheltered area. 

I ended up half an hour late to my own picnic because of a few last minute delays and traffic and suchlike, and when we got there, there were a handful of Goths, and I thought that the picnic would only be 10 people at most. As the afternoon progressed, it turned out to be 26 in total. 

We sat, chatted, ate picnic food - I baked shortbread 'bone' biscuits, and specially decorate black and purple fairy-cakes, and other people brought their own home-made food - all very delicious - and some packets of crisps, sweets, etc. If I organise a bigger, better picnic, I will definitely bake more and bring more savoury food. I wish I had photographs of all the food - the bat cupcakes, my Goth-decorated fairy-cakes (some had ankhs on them, others were black with edible silver pearls making a studded effect!) and the bone biscuits especially. 

The best thing about the picnic was it being an opportunity for Goths of all ages from the area - from 15 year old younglings to elder-Goths who remember the scene in the '80s - to enjoy being Goth, make new friends, take pride in being ourselves, and generally have fun and socialise. I had so many positive and thankful messages after the event; there has to be another picnic next year, and I will have to organise an official venue. I am not sure how to go about running a proper public event - there's things like insurance, permission from the council, making posters, etc. - but I will look into these things and hopefully next year there will be a proper public World Goth Day event, rather than a personal picnic that got rather larger than anticipated! 

Before the picnic, I had made a FaceBook group for the event, and made sure that there were basic rules on behaving in the park - no scaring the children or going to the play-park area, no dropping litter, no alcohol, and no getting in the way of other people's enjoyment of the park. Everyone kept to those rules pretty well, except for a bit of litter, and I made sure to pack everything away and throw all litter I could find in the bins there and not leave a mess for the park warden/person working at the refreshment stand. Despite the numbers, we only really used 3 of the available benches, and kept to our own little group. It didn't seem like we were interfering with the use of the nearby tennis courts or causing any sort of bother. The weather included two thunderstorms, so the park wasn't very busy that day anyway. 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Why I Still Dress Goth Despite Harassment

As I have chronicled here before, I, like many Goths get street harassment for my being visibly Goth. This ranges from the mild and annoying (I made a rare foray into the mall today to get a 'new baby' gift for a relative, and in the mall some teenagers decided to make "wooo-oooo" noises at me while waving their hands 'mystically' and then shouting "YER A WIZARD 'ARRY!" at me.) to the terrifying (a gang of thugs threatening to kick my head in and then chasing me down a street), and I've had several close friends violently attacked for being Goth. In the light of the news recently about a young man having his jaw shattered by a gang of thugs in Huthwaite (that is now being treated as an anti-Goth hate crime) as can be read about in this article in the Gainsborough Standard ::here::, several people have asked me this - why do I still dress Goth despite the negative attention I get for it, and despite my dislike of being the centre of attention. You called me 'brave' for doing so, but I don't feel brave; I do what I do because I perceive the alternative as worse, so that to me is not really bravery. It is a trade-off; I deal with the negativity and the attention I unfortunately get because it is less bad than the alternative, and there are far more benefits this way. 

First of all, I think they look beautiful, and that mainstream clothes (and some variations of Goth clothes) are too plain for my tastes. I like details, textures, patterns - hence all the damask pattern jacquards and intricate lace, all the layers of ruffles and frills. Perhaps if I was living 200 or so years ago and had either the skills or the money to wear the more elaborate outfits, I would have worn the mainstream or fashionable clothes of the period, but most mainstream clothes are a lot less fancy - I do sometimes find things I like in mainstream shops (recently, devore velvet tasseled shawls seemed to be a 'thing' so I bought several in the sales at mainstream shops like Blue Inc. and H&M), but for the most part, they're either too plain, or just not my style (or have details, but in poor quality; I saw so many things about 2 years ago that involved black lace that I would have bought if the lace had not been cheap and scratchy). 

Secondly my clothes are sort of a worn extension of my comfort zone; I wear the clothes I do because they make me feel comfortable, make me feel like myself. They remind me of who I really am in the face of everything that has tried to quash that over the years, and also of all the things I love. I dress very much as a stylistic manifestation of my interests and passions, and having those positive reminders worn feels almost talismanic; I do wear a few literal protection charms, but there's something reassuring about wearing my Goth clothes, to have that reminder of all the things that make me happy with me at all times. 

Thirdly, and I feel weird writing this out, as it seems slightly pretentious, but I hope that by being visible, I will give some of the younger and more Goths a little more courage. I'm not the only Goth that walks around where I live, and I'm not the only one that dresses very visibly Gothic - I'm probably the most elaborately Romantic variation of Goth, but I'm not the only one to go out very distinctly Goth and very fully dressed non-mainstream, there are several Goths who do that in my area. I hope that every visible Goth, out in public and proud to be themselves, is an encouragement to other Goths. Also, hopefully by both being Goth and trying to always be polite and friendly to the outside world, I serve as an example of a Goth that isn't all the negative stereotypes. 

Fourthly, there's that dressing Goth immediately filters the people who aren't comfortable with talking to Goths, and wearing a pentacle around my neck filters out people who aren't comfortable talking to Neo-Pagans/witches, and those two things also attract like-minded individuals. Yes, it also means I get hassle from those who wish to add aggression and rudeness to their prejudice, but for the most part, I am quietly left alone by those who presume things. On the other hand, those who have common interests feel a lot more comfortable talking to me because they know I'm another of their kind, and I'm much more comfortable talking to other visibly alternative people for the same reason. I get people who like bats asking me about my bat jewellery, loads of inquiries about how I dye my hair the colours I choose, and plenty of other Goths (quite a few of whom are now my friends) have come up to me because I'm Goth, and I feel more comfortable talking to other Goths I don't know when I'm dressed Goth because I'm less worried that they will think I am a judgemental non-Goth (as I know all too well the sarcastic 'compliments' and inquiries that start polite, but soon turn to mockery). 

Lastly, I am really, really uncomfortable in mainstream clothes. I feel like a fraud, an imposter, a fake - someone pretending to be normal when they're not. I feel like I have to live up to the normal exterior, to the expectations that come with it, plus I feel ugly on top of that. I'm an eccentric by nature, and I couldn't fake normality, even if I wanted to (and believe me, I've tried). If I look strange, a little bit of strangeness is expected. Mainstream people aren't expected to wax lyrical about cemeteries, Goths who look like they're from the graveyard end up giving impromptu cemetery tours to random tourists (this happened a couple of days ago, and then I ran into some history-loving American tourists who got directions to the abbey ruins, plus some free tips for other historical sites in the area...), and I am much happier with the freedom to be myself that comes with looking like myself. Those who judge me for being Goth are usually full of inaccurate assumptions of what Goth is; their judgements don't really touch me because they are not about me; they are founded on errors and presumptions - those who judge me for not being "normal" are judging who I am as a person.

So that is why I make the trade-off, and put up with the stares, the jeers and the aggression, and why I put up with the attention that ends up focused on me. Sure, I would certainly blend in better dressed in the 'costume' of the mainstream, but I would be a lot more miserable, and even more uncomfortable and nervy if I did so. 

It's not brave, it's just taking what seems like the easier option. 

The only thing that really scares me is the increased risk of violence; I keep vigilant for those who might be violent trouble (and have got pretty good at spotting trouble coming; I don't know if it is instinct or perception, but I know when someone gives me a bad feeling, and I vanish, and usually soon after they do something to display that my instinct was right), and I keep to either shops that simply won't attract trouble much, or in open areas of central parts of town - away from the dodgy areas of towns and cities where even a normal person stands a higher risk of violent crime, and where my clothes would mark me out for at least a beating. I do martial arts, and train for self-defence rather than just sport. I know when to run. Several of my friends locally have been violently attacked, and I have been curbing my travels since them. I don't stay in town after dark very often, as that's when the drunks are out and about, and I take the bus to places I would have once walked, and tend to go places in groups or meet up with someone. I can minimise the risks.