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..

Thursday, 12 January 2017

New Year, New Me?

I'm doing that modern tradition of 'New Year's Resolutions' and so far I'm managing to stick to them, but I hope I'm not one of the many people who let them drop by the wayside throughout the year. I am hoping that if I post them publicly, this will encourage me to live up to the expectations I have declared of myself - especially if people encourage me.

Recent photograph of me by Raven
My resolutions are in three main categories: healthier living, happier living, and college.

Healthier Living Resolutions:
  1. Eat less cheese, chocolate and other less healthy foods that I tend to over-indulge in. I'm actually not eating either for January - I've eaten the last of what was left over from the festive season, and I'm not buying or eating any more until at least February, and trying to replace these parts of my diet with healthier options - primarily fresh and dried fruit. 
  2. Get fitter and less fat. I've put on fat due to a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet of convenience food, something I have mentioned before. I managed to loose a little fat and ended up about 2 inches thinner all around last year, but then I gained it again. I need to make sure being a student doesn't also mean living unhealthily and not exercising enough, eating unhealthy snack foods, etc. I don't have a problem with this as primarily an aesthetic issue, but as one of me recognising that it's a symptom of my lifestyle in general having become less healthy. 
  3. Go for regular walks. I live in a beautiful, beautiful part of the world and I don't spend as much time exploring it as I ought to. Part of that is because I'm really busy with the house and college, and part of that is because I spend too much time on Faceboook, Tumblr, etc. I need to do less of the latter, and I need to do more exercise, in general, and walking is both relaxing and gets me fresh air, exercise and relative quiet, especially if I stay rural and keep away from populated areas. 
  4. Go back to martial arts classes. I have loose joints and a co-ordination disorder, and as long as I'm careful in what exercises I do (that I'm doing them properly, and that I work on having the muscle-strength to control the over-flexibility of my joints) and strap up my knees and ankles properly, martial arts help both of those issues. A complex discipline like martial arts really helps with co-ordination, proprioception and kinesthesia. It helps me become far more aware of where all of me is, basically, and what each part of me is doing, and while I'm still clumsy, and I learn things like martial arts far, far slower than my class-mates (I will never be some badass MMA fighter type!), all the time I'm practising regularly I see the improvement in my everyday life. I also found being allowed to hit things a good stress-reliever. I quit to spend more time on my studies, but now I regret it. I need the exercise, but I also need to do these things that really tax my abilities in order to improve them, otherwise I'm a klutz that trips over air, bumps her hand on the hot parts of the cooker and breaks crockery... I suppose I could substitute any other discipline that requires similar co-ordination, like dance or yoga, but martial arts fits my personality better, plus while I'm no expert, I would like to improve my self-defence abilities, especially when I know how rough things can be for those of us who choose to look different. 

This is my "the photoshoot will be ruined by rain" face.
Photograph by Raven. 

Happier Living Resolutions:
  1. Spend less time on the internet. This blog is a fun hobby, and e-mails are a useful form of communication. The internet is also a great research resource (Google Scholar is so useful!), but it has its downside; getting into arguments online with strangers, spending too much time idly on social media, being distracted by pages of funny cat/bat/snake memes, and generally wasting time unproductively. I need to less of the latter, and perhaps spend more time on this blog! Last year I only managed 29 blog posts, and that is not enough content!
  2. Learn to say "no" to social engagements. I've been trying to override my introverted nature and be too social for my own good, leaving me exhausted. Just being around people too long wears me out, and I get plenty of that at college. I have to be balanced about this, too, as I have reclusive tendencies, but I also have to respect my own boundaries and not just blindly agree to every time I am invited to see friends or have a coffee. I'm also very much not a fan of loud, busy places - so a lot of bars and clubs are more torturous than fun in my opinion, and I need to be more assertive in saying that I don't want to go to those sorts of places. I am a "yes" to cemetery picnics and a "no" to Friday night drinks. 
  3. Draw and paint more. I love art, and I love working on artistic projects, but these days I haven't done much in the way of art and crafting - a lot of the time it's because college has to take precedence, but keeping my artistic skills up to scratch is important to my architecture studies, plus it's very rewarding. I also have quite a few unfinished art projects that I just want to get done. 
This was a test photo of me looking at a tree by Raven
Studious Resolutions:
  1. Spend more time on Revit. Revit, for those who aren't in architecture, is a piece of software that is 'building information modelling' - which in ordinary terms means that it models various properties of a building as well as its 3D shape, and allows for information like which company makes something, what phase of construction it's in, or whatnot, to be included. Very powerful software, and an important part of my college course is learning to use it, but I really struggle with it; it's so different from anything I've done before - heck, before uni, I hadn't done any 3D modelling at all. Learning 2D CAD and technical drawing was more a case of applying what I know of doing it traditionally to a new medium, but 3D building information modelling is something completely new. The only way to improve is to practice, and I hate practising because it's an unrewarding battle with something that mostly frustrates me, but I have to, so I will. 
  2. Tidy my study. My study has ended up something of a storage room instead of a quiet place to work; it's full of crates, books, etc. It's hard to move in there, let alone get any studying done, so it needs a clear out! Because of the amount of junk that has been shifted in there as we decorate (and really, refurbish) other areas of our house, it's become rather cluttered, so this is a significant task. 
  3. Manage my time better. I struggle with time management - partly because I have a couple neurological issues that mean I have problems like no sense of how much time has passed, and with remaining on task (I have short-term memory issues), but I've got a tablet computer now, and apps and software to help - I use countdown timers a lot, for example, and it's easier to have one on my computer than keep taking the one from the kitchen - plus I'm trying to schedule my time better with time-tables, etc. I got behind last term, and I don't want to repeat that.  

Those are my 10 resolutions for this year. I really hope I can keep to them.
The photos interspersing these are the best photos from the first attempted photoshoot of 2017 and are all by Raven. Unfortunately, bad weather came in and ruined it all, which means I'll have to try again soon. The jacket is by DarkStar and the jabot and shirt by PunkRave. My hair is dyed with Directions Apple Green, Stargazer UV Green and Directions Alpine Green, with the UV Green as highlights at the front, and the Alpine Green as lowlights in the lower layers. It's washed out a little since I did it, hence why it is a little more pastel than my usual vivid green. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Japanese Punk-Goth In Culloden

Another instalment of my 'Highland Goth' photography series. These were actually taken last summer, but I've been so busy with college that I haven't had the time to process the images. These are photographs of K. which, if you have been reading my blog awhile, will know is one of my good friends and also someone particularly interested in Japanese fashion. For the majority of her appearances on my blog, you will note that she is into Gothic Lolita fashion, but she is also into other aspects of Goth-related fashions, including Goth itself, and Japanese Goth. In these photos she's wearing an outfit that's very much based in the aesthetics of Japanese and Asian Goth brands; it's got the deliberately tattered look of punk, the bright colours and stripes from late '90s Burtonesque looks (I think there's Burton graphic on the skirt), and an hint of 'kawaii' about it. 

Photograph HouseCat

I did K.'s make-up, and lent her a few of my things as she was visiting us. I don't actually have an eye-shadow that red, so I used a little lipstick for a really vibrant red. The hat she's wearing is actually Raven's - I think he got it for a General Bison (Street Fighter) cosplay, but it wasn't quite right - not enough red. However, military style hats seem to be common Visual-Kei style headgear, and it went with the outfit, so it was donned. However, Raven is a lot bigger than K. so the hat is a tad large. K. is a keen cosplayer, so it also seems fitting that she wear a hat that was initially intended as part of a cosplay. 

Photograph by HouseCat

This particular photoshoot very nearly ended up quite badly because I managed to get a cut on my eyeball. Originally we planned to take this photoshoot in the underpass in Culloden that has a very psychedelic looking 'Alice in Wonderland' mural the local youth group did in graffiti style - it was done by teenagers, so they took a rather interesting and colourful approach to it. We went there, but I forgot that the school year is different to the university year, and that a lot of teenagers from the local secondary school were about to be funnelled through one narrow underpass... I was using my partner's camera, as mine was out of battery power, and his has a little sun-hood over the rear screen, and this is spring-loaded, with a little thumb-flick thing to release it. As I was photographing K., I was interrupted by a gaggle of teenagers, and tried to step out of the way of the flow of people, and moved the camera away from my eye, and just as I did so, accidentally released the sun-hood and a sharp plastic edge caught my eyeball. 

Photograph by HouseCat

Initially, I thought it was just a poke, and no real damage was done, so we moved on to the Doocot, where things were quieter, and I tried to complete the shoot - difficult as I had to use my other eye as my good eye was streaming with tears, and my other eye is always terribly out of focus without my glasses, and is it was bright, I had my sunglasses instead (I can see pretty well out of the eye I hurt without glasses). I'm surprised any of the photographs were even in focus! I finished the shoot, and started walking home, and was beginning to realise that it was more than an ordinary poke in the eye, and that my eye was really burning and streaming. It hurt pretty badly indeed, but I could see out of it. After consulting NHS 24 to make sure it wasn't a waste of hospital time, I went to the minor injuries unit at the local hospital, they put some yellow-orange dye in my eye and took a look - turns out I'd managed to scratch my eyeball - just on the edge of my iris. If it had been a few millimetres further up, I'd have scratched it on the lens of my eye. I have a friend who got a scratch on his cornea, and as the scar tissue is cloudy, he's now partially sighted in that eye, so I feel quite lucky, as it could have been much worse. 

Ducky and K. Photograph by HouseCat

The plan was to also do a photoshoot with K.'s partner, Ducky (also a good friend of mine).  I actually spent a while doing Ducky's make-up, but because of my eye injury, the photoshoot didn't work out. I did, however, get this photograph of Ducky and K. together. They're a lovely couple and I'm so happy for the both of them. In future I'd like to do a set of photographs of them as a pair - a proper 'couple' shoot. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Ethics Of Goth Clothes

I have been stalling writing this blog post... It's one of those topics that is very easy to sound preachy and self-righteous about, and I'm not wanting to dictate other people's shopping habits - rather, I would like to start a conversation (feel free to comment!), one that occurs about mainstream fashion, but which seems overlooked within Goth. 

Manufacture & Sweatshops
Quite a few mainstream 'fast-fashion' high-street brands have come under criticism for having garments made in sweatshops where working conditions are poor, workers have long shifts, health and safety is overlooked, wages are a pittance, and sometimes even children work. Investigative reporters and groups interested in sustainable and ethical have tracked back their supply chains, produced rankings and reports to check major companies, and some retailers have since moved production to different manufacturers after public scandals, but the issue of sweatshops remain. Imported clothes at impossibly low prices, for example, make me question where the customer saving comes from, and to where that cost has been shifted.

When it comes to Goth brands, especially the larger ones, the supply chain is pretty opaque to the average customer- we rarely even buy them from the brands themselves, but from resellers. These are often niche companies, ranging from very small businesses run by either one person or two or three, to small companies, to much larger companies making thousands of garments, maybe tens of thousands, but very few are anywhere near the scale of the big high-street retailers selling millions of garments each. They are not large enough companies to attract the attention of the groups monitoring sustainable and ethical production, and it's often very hard to find out if the companies just design and distribute the garments, or if they also produce them in their own factories rather than contract that out.  This makes it very difficult to know anything about the production and supply chain.

Some, like ::Holy Clothing:: (fantasy, Medieval-inspired and bohemian styles, usually available in black, dark purple and other colours that make them very Gothic - great place to get gowns!), make a point to say their clothes are 'Ethically Made' and even have a section on their website about their workers, and Dracula Clothing also seem to be treating their staff in their tailoring workshop in India well, and others like ::Alchemy Gothic:: are very proud of their production methods and tell you all about it if you look on their blog (part 1 of the process is ::here:: and you can find the rest of it on their site. Their jewellery is made in Leicester, England). There are also companies like ::MoonMaiden:: and ::Hysteria Machine:: that are very small operations, making their own garments and accessories.

I thoroughly endorse Alchemy Gothic's products, and I'm not being sponsored to say that or anything! I've been collecting their jewellery and homewares for several years now,  and am a very happy customer, and I think their jewellery designs are gorgeous! 

A lot of what Goths actually wear isn't sourced from Goth-specific brands - it's from mainstream retailers. These often ARE assessed in terms of sustainability and ethical production, and there's been quite a lot done to research exactly where our high-street fast-fashion comes from. With those, I strongly recommend looking up exactly what is made where. Personally, I now buy nearly nothing directly from fast-fashion mainstream retailers, although I will buy stuff manufactured by them from charity shops etc.; I don't want my money to support an unsustainable fashion industry, but also understand that clothes waste is a serious issue (which I will address later in this post), and so would rather buy second-hand clothes and put my money towards a good cause. 

Production & Pollution
There is also an issue that is part of all fashion - the manufacture of fabric, especially synthetic fabrics made from what are essentially plastics derived from the oil industry, and the dyeing process. The dyeing industry is notorious for water pollution issues, With fabrics derived from natural materials there is also the concern for the farming methods used - for example pesticide use on cotton grown on irrigated land and the leaching of pesticides back into the water system, especially as cotton is often a crop grown with high use of pesticides. Check out ::this article:: for an overview of the issues relating to specific fabrics. One piece of bad news for Goths is that one of our favourite materials - PVC - is a plastic with a particular issue when it comes to production.

It is important to look at what materials a garment is made from. Personally, I think this is a good reason to look towards either secondhand or recycled clothes as much as possible rather than towards brand new clothes made of brand new materials, thus not encouraging further excess production. Of course, that's not always practical, plus there'd be a pretty big negative economic impact if everyone suddenly stopped buying new clothes!

When making our own clothes, it also important to think about where we are sourcing our materials. Some fabrics and trims are made in factories that are just as much sweatshops as garment factories can be, sometimes even worse as the dyeing and synthetic fabric production processes use a lot of harsh and dangerous chemicals. There is also the issue of health and safety, especially in factories that use antiquated machinery and child labour. Conditions in some places aren't much better than the lethal cotton mills of Victorian England. It is unfortunately very, very difficult to find out the conditions in which our trims, buttons, lace and fabric were made, as we are usually at the end of a very indirect supply chain. It is certainly possible to reclaim materials from used garments and furnishings, but this isn't always practical, and good quality materials secondhand can be hard to come by - especially as another aspect of fast-fashion flooding the market is that cheap, substandard materials have become the norm, and therefore the secondhand market is full of things that are simply already too worn-out and damaged to be easily up-cycled. 

Carbon Footprint & Air Miles

There are two issues with clothes being manufactured a long way from where they are consumed - relying on imported goods and outsourcing cheap manufacturing overseas damages the domestic manufacturing industries, and shipping things half way across the globe is bad for the environment - those ships and planes pollute. Some companies, such as ::Cykxtees:: and Moon Maiden manufacture their clothes in the same country as their primary market (in the case of Cykxtees, that's the U.S.A, Moon Maiden the U.K.) but many have their primary sales markets in Europe or America, but have their clothes made in India, China, etc. While this is obviously economical in terms of cost of production, it does have an impact on the environment, and while it might beyond the scope of small companies to make much change in the economic forces that drive manufacturing to far away places, there is an issue with that, too - but the economic growth in many of those countries has in many cases spurred a huge increase in the local standards of living (and in other cases, contributed to local pollution to toxic levels!). It is a case where there is not always a clear and definitive ethical demarcation of whether it is "good" or "bad" - but I think it is something that needs to at least be thought about. 

Cheaper & Greener

I really recommend shopping secondhand for Goth clothes. It's how I get about ⅔ of my clothes, initially only out of budgetary concerns as I just can't afford most new clothes in the Romantic Goth, Gothic Aristocrat and Gothic Lolita styles that I like, but now also because I don't want to contribute financially to the encouragement of overproduction.

It takes a bit more time to look through charity shops and online to find what you want, but I think it is definitely a worthwhile endeavour; I've bought fancy buckled pointy boots for £1 and a heavy winter woollen coat that was probably £100 or more new for under £4. One thing I will note is to always check the cost of postage, and from how far away someone is selling. It requires patience, and knowing the nuances of how to shop secondhand; something that is outside the scope of this particular article, but there are plenty of guides out there, including ::this one:: I wrote.

Reuse, Recycle and Resell
There is also the issue of what to do with our clothes once we no longer have use for them, as well as how we get them in the first place.
If something no longer fits, alteration is also an option, especially if a garment is now too big. Things can also be made larger with the insertion of fabric panels, or where the seam allowance allows. If something is damaged, see if it can be mended before you throw it away.

Reselling clothes in good condition is certainly an option. There are many second-hand sales communities on the internet, as well as second-hand marketplace websites. You can often recoup a reasonable amount of money, especially for the more elaborate and unusual items, especially if you're in the right targeted group for a niche community. People will still buy fancy garments with minor damage if they're informed of it up front, as buttons can be changed, tears mended, etc. Permanent stains are often more of an issue, especially if they're obvious. There are also Goth swap-meets and bring-and-buy sales in person in some areas.

Donating old clothes to charity is also an option. Charities prefer clothes without tears, damage or stains, because they are selling them to a broader market, and most people outside of looking for a niche garment where there's less of an availability issue, will reject damaged clothes. Some charity shops can sell on damaged clothes by weight for material recycling, but this isn't possible with all fabrics and with all shops - some shops are actually charged for the disposal of clothes they can't sell.

There is also the option of reusing garments as something else. The staples of this in our subculture are long socks with the feet cut off and a thumb-hole made used as arm-warmers, and ripped tights being ripped up even more on purpose for a textured, layered look, especially in post-apocalyptic and ruination inspired fashions, Deathrock, and Trad-Goth. With more sewing skills things can be dismantled and the fabric, trims, etc. all reused. Plenty of my clothes are repurposed from the fabric of something else; a torn lace skirt turned into a 'butt-cape', a over-sized neck-tie turned into a headdress, an old jacket turned into a hood and cowl, etc. The internet is full of crafting ideas for reusing unwanted and damaged clothes. I have a stash of reclaimed fabric, trims and buttons.

Fast Fashion vs. Goth Fashion
For the most part, Goth is what I would call a style rather than a fashion - what is fashionable is often fleeting and transiently cool, whereas what is stylish remains stylish through time. There are plenty of Goths now that dress pretty much like Goths did 40 years ago, or 25 years ago, etc. and we often buy clothes, especially statement pieces, with the idea of them being an investment we're going to keep for a good few years. This, I think, is a lot more sustainable than what mainstream fashion seems to be like - ::this:: recent video by Huffington Post asserts that mainstream garments are now worn only an average of 5 times before they're thrown away, and retained for an average length of just over a month. (Which, with how long many of us hold on to clothes, must mean some people wear things once and throw them away straight off, for that to be an average!).

We hold on to our clothes longer, have less of a demand for new clothes, and are more likely to buy secondhand, or to make our own clothes, including up-cycled clothes, all positives, and it is good to acknowledge this is already an aspect of the fashion of our subculture and the attitudes within it. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Old High Church Revisited - Photographic Friday

This building is probably very familiar to all of my readers - it's the Old High Church in Inverness. It's somewhere I really enjoy going, especially the accompanying graveyard, and it is a building I have already extensively photographed, especially the unusual tower. The oldest parts of the tower date from the 14thC, but most of it was rebuilt in the 18thC. There's apparently been a church there since the 500s as it is one of St. Columba's original churches, and there was a pre-Christian religious site before that, possibly dating back millennia as many ancient sacred sites in the area do. 

I've finally taken a picture of the Old High Church from across the river! This seems like it would be the obvious thing to do, but for some reason I have never gotten around to doing so. It was such a cloudy day, and this was a lot less dramatic a picture than I would have liked. However, I do think this picture shows how the church is built on a mound - which I have heard called 'St. Michael's mound' - so many sacred hills, hillocks and mounds are associated with St. Michael, but I don't know why. I know some have specific legends, but many don't. If anyone wants to educate me on this, please do!

I have recently got LightZone, which I am still learning to use. The first picture in this series was edited with G.I.M.P (Gnu Image Manipulation Program - minds out of the gutter!) and the second I think was with ::PicMonkey:: - a free online photo editing website, where you can do basic edits via your browser, which is what I use for the majority of my selfies. There's a premium version if you want to pay for it, too, which is has more capabilities.  This final picture of the Old High Church is the first picture I have ever tweaked in LightZone. I was very quickly able to bring out the details, and I am getting used to the primary method - the 'zones' which are, in black and white images, areas of a greys within parameters, eg. white, very very light greys, very light greys, light greys, moderately light greys, moderate greys, etc. It's had to explain in words! Anyway, I think it is something where the interface and approach to editing would work quite well with how I process images. 

There is a low headstone in the foreground with a notch in the top - that notch was carved as a rifle-rest after the Battle of Culloden for the executioner's rifle. Just out of shot, beyond the left edge of this photograph is a wall, against which Jacobite prisoners were shot. There's still dents in the wall from it. I mentioned this in my Graveyard Walk post, and it's something that really stuck me. It's such a cheery graveyard now - or at least as cheery as a graveyard can be - with a nice view over the river and charming trees and plenty of wildlife, especially birds and rabbits, it's darker history is easily forgotten. It is quite moving to me to think of what awful things happened there. 

That's all for this instalment of Photographic Friday. I've got quite a few more blog entries in the works; getting time to work on all of them around college is a bit trickier, but I hope you have all found what I've been writing about recently to be interesting. If you like architectural photography, don't forget to check out my Tumblr ::Architecturally Gothic::. Domesticated Goth also has a Tumblr ::here:: where I post more selfies, links to what I post here, snippets of my life, and also reblog stuff from other bloggers that I find interesting - everything from illuminated manuscripts to Gothic models. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Carpe Nocturne Interview

I have been interviewed in the fall issue of Carpe Nocturne magazine. 
Feeling regal in the forest
::Carpe Nocturne:: magazine interviewed me electronically this summer for their fall 2016 edition of the magazine, as part of their Goth Fashion Around The World writings. It live far from the metropolis, previously living in Culloden and having moved since then, so I'm writing from both a rural perspective (primarily from the Highland scene, as that's what I've become part of), and from someone in Scotland (although I'm not Scottish; I'm 'Franglais' - if you hear me talk it's funny because I say all these Scottish words and phrases with this cut-glass English accent!). It was quite interesting to write about, because I hadn't really thought about if the fashion here is any different to anywhere else before. 

I haven't actually got my printed copy yet (it is being shipped from the US and I have an estimated delivery date in December), but I took part in two photo-shoots for my interview, with the image above being one of the results, so it's hopefully illustrated too. The other photo-shoot was in Steam-Goth attire, and that's going to get its own post later this month. You can find the magazine in print at Barnes & Noble ::here:: or digitally via Magzter ::here::. I'll probably write about this some more when I get my copy in the mail! 

As this was for a fashion interview, I should probably talk about what I'm wearing, so here's an outfit run-down:

♕ Circlet: hand-made, bought via Far Fetched, Inverness
♕ Small bat pendant: ::Vampyr:: by Alchemy Gothic, secondhand on eBay
♕ Large bat pendant: ::Gothic Bat:: by Alchemy Gothic, secondhand on eBay
♕ Bat brooch: A.R. Brown, secondhand on eBay
♕ Cropped jacket: Golden Steampunk, via ::Corsets UK:: (no longer available)
♕ Ruffled shirt: Debbie Suchat, secondhand n eBay
♕ Lace gloves: Claire's Accessories
♕ Celtic belt buckle: ::Two Dragons:: by St. Justin, secondhand on eBay
♕ Long mesh cardigan: New Looksecondhand on eBay
♕ Skirt: Raven, secondhand on eBay
♕ Leggings: 'Macbeth' leggings by ::Punk Rave::
♕ Boots: no identifying label remainingsecondhand on eBay

I was aiming for a mixture of Nu-Goth and Romantic Goth in this outfit - the mesh jacket and boots are definitely Nu-Goth, but the jacket and shirt are both more Romantic, and the skirt is somewhere between Romantic in its use of satin and lace, but punkier in its cut and style, and the leggings are a wonderful modern-meets-Romantic design from ::Punk Rave::. I'm a big fan of their styles; they offer a fresh and unique take on Romantic Goth fashion, probably because of the influence of Japanese Goth and Visual Kei fashion on their designs. These leggings are a) the only leggings I own because I usually hate leggings and b) one of my favourite garments, despite how I usually hate leggings! - I love the lacing up at the front, the embroidered mesh panel and the (nearly impossible to photograph) paisley-esque pattern embossed into the pleather; they're gorgeous, they make my legs look longer, and I love them.

A lot of people bash Nu-Goth as a whole as just being a trend based off the Goth aesthetic, but as long as it isn't divorced from the Gothic subculture, I see nothing wrong with it. To begin with, I was one of the people quite skeptical, wondering if Nu-Goth was like how Mall-Goth was when I became Goth; tangental but related, with witch-house music like Ritualz, CHVRCHES and Zola Jesus being the new 'not Goth, but dark' music, taking the cultural place of H.I.M, Marilyn Manson and Evanescence had in introducing teens to the darker subcultures, but now that I've thought about it more, I realise that this isn't a bad thing, any more than Mall-Goth was (after all, I was a Mall-Goth when I was a baby-bat!) as while some of it involves disaffected teenagers trying to hard to be ~edgy and dark~, a lot of it is sincere, and gives the subculture some fresh blood and new influences to keep it alive. Also, a lot of Nu-Goth people are actually into the Goth subculture as a whole, not just the parts that are Nu-Goth.

I'm not going to turn Nu-Goth, even if I might like witch-house music; while I like some elements of Nu-Goth fashion, the overall aesthetic is just too minimal and modern for my tastes, but I'm not going to balk at incorporating elements of it that I do like, and I'm going to keep adding pieces from brands like Punk Rave that bridge the gap between the modern and the historically inspired.

Also, note how much of what I wear is secondhand; it's cheaper, there's no shame in it, and secondhand clothes from a variety of original sources means I have outfits that are quite unique compared to if I bought everything I own directly from what Goth brands are selling right now. A lot of my Goth clothes, although not in this specific outfit, are from the '90s and '00s, too - some are from the '80s, but sizes back then seem to run small and do not fit on this Goth of Amazonian proportions! Buying clothes secondhand - and selling on unwanted clothes - is good for the environment, too, as the manufacture of clothes is actually very resource intensive, and the dyeing process especially has pollution issues, so keeping existing clothes circulating rather than increasing the demand for new clothes helps. (I'm writing a whole long post on ethical fashion).

Photograph by my partner Raven. He did run a photography business called Chance Photography, but he's now taken down his website to focus both on advancing in his nursing studies, and to set up a jewellery business. Photograph is in the woods by my house (the new go-to location for my outfit photos since I moved away from the meadow!). 

1) I am now working with Punk Rave and will be doing an upcoming sponsored post, but I'm not being paid to endorse them here; this is outwith that - I'm saying this because I genuinely love those leggings. I also only accept sponsored endorsements from companies I actually like, anyway. 
2) The above image is from a photoshoot for a magazine; it's air-brushed, tweaked and poked at (mostly by myself), plus has been artfully lit, posed and taken from my best angles by my partner Raven - in real life I've got worse skin, I look shorter (I'm 5'9½") and my legs probably look chunkier, especially when I'm not wearing 7-inch heels! Body positivity includes owning up to digital editing! I'm a UK size 12, not especially thin. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Neo-Folk, Dark Folk - Politics & Recommendation Requests

I really like what I've head of Neo-Folk - it's often dark, Romantic, and has this yearning for times past, and often an interest in Neo-Pagan and Pagan revivalist themes, plus I've got an interest in traditional folk music and in other folk genres, and in Industrial music, as well as obviously Goth, and a lot of it Neo-Folk combines elements of these various musical types. As such, I'm trying to get into more of it. Currently my favourite band in the genre Of The Wand And The Moon - especially their songs that speak of the human condition like "The Lone Descent" - they are bleak in a beautiful way, heart-breaking and yet simultaneously glorious. I got into the genre via Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows - that's some music that really likes to draw from a variety of genres including elements from folk and classical/historical European music alongside a lot of electronic elements - although I'm not exactly sure what genre Sopor Aeternus would be categorised as. I also like songs like Dead Can Dance's 'Severance' or 'The Carnival Is Over' which don't fit neatly into genres, but seem to combine similar elements. 

However, there are a few Neo-Folk bands which like to romanticise the past and European traditions as part of rather right-wing forms of nationalism and an ethnic pride that are more or less racism and jingoism. This is quite similar to the issues that Heathenism and other forms of revivalist Neo-Paganism have had with fascist and racist elements co-opting their faith - obviously revivalist Neo-Paganism isn't inherently about any sort of racial superiority, and forms of ancestor worship and having pride and kinship with 'ancestors' in a more general sense of heritage does in no way mean inherently denigrating anybody else's ancestors, nor does it mean you have to embrace all of your own predecessors and ancestors actions as morally right, but despite this, there are those who wish to use it as religion for their 'ethnic purity'. I guess because there is a lot of overlap between revivalist Neo-Paganism and Neo-Folk, and plenty of historical retrospective yearning in both, there's this pernicious element that are not really interested in culture and heritage for its own sake, but only as the underpinnings for a hateful ideology. There's a huge difference between being proud of our cultural achievements and thinking we're inherently 'better' as a culture than others - also history tells of a lot of atrocities, and every culture has blood in its past. 

Another issue across all dark genres are those bands that like to co-opt Nazi imagery for shock-value nonsense; something I think is distasteful and creatively bankrupt; it's been done to death and in a world where actual far-right politics seem on the rise, is too easily seen as an endorsement of those politics - both by supporters and detractors of such ideologies. I also generally think that if you have to rely on shock value to get attention, then whatever it is your trying to garner that attention for can't be that interesting. Unless you're actually trying to create some kind of commentary on fascism, or authoritarianism or suchlike, or allude to that being something's nature, then that sort of imagery generally seems fairly irrelevant - and even then, it can seem quite heavy-handed (for a pop-culture science-fiction example, General Hux's address of the First Order troops and the pageantry around it was quite obviously based off the Nuremberg Rally - very much painting them as 'space Nazis') 

Unfortunately, it seems that you can't get away from articles about fascist elements in Neo-Folk, about people wary of far-right influences, etc. Here I am, writing another one! I guess some of it is from fans of the genre wanting to dissociate themselves from bands with blatant fascist, Neo-Nazi and far-right messages, and others are people who are very concerned with this element in the culture surrounding the genre - especially when it's quite antithetical to the politics of a lot of other members of the subculture, and therefore there will be quite the clash. However, it's got me rather nervous about the genre as a whole, despite the parts of it I clearly enjoy. In exploring the genre, I get worried that I will unwittingly be enjoying a song that's actually supporting something horrific in veiled terms, or that the song I might be listening to might be about something completely separate from all that, but that the same band might have other songs that are clearly about something more sinister. 

It's a genre I'm not very acquainted with, where I don't know much about the bands, their members and ideologies, or the broader catalogues of musicians. I have Spotify and a handful of recommendations, but really I want to hear from people who know the genre well and can steer me clear of bands with distasteful political messages, but towards bands that blend Romanticism and cynicism,  have haunting atmospherics and blend acoustic folk and classical elements with industrial, Goth and electronic elements. I'm especially interested in music with Neo-Pagan themes (being one myself), and references to English, Scottish, Welsh, Breton and Irish mythologies and folklore.

As such, I would really like to hear suggestions for music like this! I'd love to hear comments about the problem/issue of Neo-Nazi influence on dark subcultures and genres as well as music recommendations, to. 

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Great Gothic Graveyard Walk

Originally, quite a few of us were going to go on the graveyard walk, but in the end - especially with it being the day after the Rapture rock night (29th October) and people being rather hung-over - it ended up with only a small group of us going. I've been on antibiotics due to getting all infected in my sinuses and then my chest after having had the flu (it's a recurring issue because my sinuses don't drain properly), so I wasn't drinking the night before, and I don't drink much anyway. 

This is the unicorn statue in Falcon Square

This was Inverness based, and as I had organised and was leading it, I had to get their nice and early. Raven was at work, and I'm medically not allowed to drive, so this meant a bus journey. My friend Ducky was staying at ours, so he came with me. We met up in Falcon Square, which is pretty much Inverness' city centre, and I stood under the statue of a unicorn, my bright green hair hopefully a beacon to make us visible from afar.

The first stop was meant to be Chapel Yard cemetery, which is one I am quite fond of, but it was locked up over the Hallowe'en weekend (it's usually open during the daytime) - presumably to stop those revellers who get carried away from doing anything to desecrate it. After a spate of grave vandalisms in the city, this was probably a wise decision. 

Detail of Leakey's interior
We decided to move on and go to Leakey's instead. ::Leakey's:: is a used book shop, but it's in a repurposed chapel, and it's amazing. It's internationally famous, and is one of the best book-shops I have been into. You can find books on pretty much everything. I bought a book by Raymond Buckland on how to communicate with spirits. We had a lot of fun rummaging through various sections - there were so many books that I wanted, but I could only afford to get one book, so picking one was quite hard. They also sell prints, including one I saw of a mausoleum (roofless, a specific Gaelic type) that is in the Old High Church graveyard, but I couldn't afford it, although I was quite tempted. It's my favourite shop in Inverness, and it's easy to while away the hours in there. 

The inside is like something from Harry Potter! 
I thoroughly recommend Leakey's to anybody interested in old books or old buildings, especially if they love both. There are a lot of fabulous details of the building remaining from its time as a church, including the original stained glass windows, pulpit, and galleries - as well as a big log-burner in the middle of it all! Yes, a book shop heated with fire! The pipe reaching up through the ceiling in the above picture is the chimney. I love standing by the fire and warming my hands, especially in the chill of the colder months in the Highlands. 

One of the stained glass windows in Leakey's. Yes, I still like windows.

After visiting Leakey's, we went to the neighbouring Old High Church graveyard. The Old High Church graveyard is one that I've visited numerous times, and is one of my favourites in Inverness, probably because it's usually quite quiet and has a nice view over the river. Thankfully this graveyard was open, and we had a look around. 

Left to right: Ducky, myself, Sean, Lyn, D. J. A.
Ducky borrowing my cane to look fabulous until I'd need it on the way back

We also took a group photo - as you can see, a small turn out. Missing is Lyn's partner, who is taking the photo. Note how dressing for the Scottish autumn ought to take precedence - I am grateful that all those layers of velvet were actually rather warm; I should have worn my coat.  

A. & D. amongst tombstones.

Lyn, the lady with the red hair, used to be a volunteer with the Culloden Battlefield visitor's centre, so she told us about the history of the graveyard in relation to the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden and the execution of Jacobite prisoners. I've written about that before ::here::. It's a sad and sombre part of history, very dark for what now seems like a charming and peaceful graveyard - not somewhere to be associated with a mass execution. It seems a bit weird photographing where they shot people, so I didn't take a picture of that part of the graveyard. 

Blackfriar's Graveyard

We then tried to visit Blackfriar's graveyard which is down a side-street and beneath the British Telecom building, literally! As it is an archaeological site there's a 'bridge' over it connecting the two main portions of the B.T. building. The site has the remains of an ancient Dominican Friary, really only one column standing - as well as a more recent, but still centuries old graveyard. It was also locked, however, so I just took some photographs through the gate. I've been in there when it's open, however, and shall have to post better photographs on this blog and also at ::Architecturally Gothic::.

Balnain House

After we tried to visit the Blackfriar's graveyard, we walked across the foot-bridge to Balnain House, the front courtyard of which is above the mass graves for the prisoners executed at the Old High Church, as Balnain House was at the time used as a hospital for the Hanoverian troops. It's a sombre place, and I am surprised no latter monument has been erected to those buried there. If it hadn't been for Lyn telling us, I'm not sure I'd have known about that at all. I've lived here 5 years, and I'm still learning so much about this (relatively small!) city. 

Walking beside the canal

After that we headed along the canal (a beautiful walk in itself) to Inverness' closest thing to a necropolis - the sprawling Tomnahurich cemetery that winds its way up to a war memorial at the top of a small but steep hill. It's in the suburbs of Inverness, rather than its centre, but not quite at the city's edge - however it has some very beautiful views, and is something of a park as well as a place to bury the dead. Some of it is wooded, and it's a very beautiful place. It has a lot of Victorian monuments, many of which are rather ornate. It also has large areas of more modern grave-stones - in general a bit plainer than their historic neighbours.
Looking out over more recent graves from the hill.

We walked all the way up the central hill, which is quite steep in places (my knees and ankles are weak from old injuries and ached quite a bit - I'd lent my cane to Ducky for aesthetic purposes, but on the way back I needed it back for practical reasons!). The view is beautiful, and the monuments at the top, including the war memorial, are quite splendid. There weren't any the day we visited, but if you go there when it's very quiet, there are often hedgehogs and red squirrels, too.

Finial type monument between stone graves

One thing that is unusual in Tomnahurich are the cast-iron monuments. Most of them are in the form of a traditional Victorian Gothic-Revival headstone, but cast as an iron frame with an inner plaque, often a stone plaque. These are often the graves of people who worked at the foundry and ironworks in the city, and I wonder if they're the graves of those who died in industrial accidents, or perhaps those who had died after many years working at the ironworks. One curious iron monument is one that I spotted that appeared to be an architectural finial used as a monument, mounted on a small stone. Similar finials top the gables of the finer Victorian houses and buildings across the city, and I wonder if the monument was either cast from the same mould, or was initially made as a finial, and then used as a monument.

We spent quite some time walking around Tomnahurich, examining the monuments, pondering about what the symbolism meant in regard to those buried, and admiring the fine stonework - the monumental masons of Invernes were evidently quite skilled! I tried to take more photographs, but I was loosing the light, and I will have to return in summer, or earlier in the day.

We had a fun, if rather long walk around the various graveyards and cemeteries of Inverness - or at least those that were accessible. We had planned to go further North to the graves of the patients of Craig Dunain (a Victorian 'lunatic asylum', which I have written about ::here::) but it was getting too dark, and late enough in the evening for busses to be infrequent, so we headed back after Tomnahurich. It was very nice to catch up with friends, even if not as many folk turned out as could have, and a good walk around Inverness, too!