Happy Halloween!

On Wednesday I am off on my jollies to Whitby Goth Weekend for a week. I am super excited – this is our annual holiday and wedding anniversary week, spent in a wonderful place with our furry Rug Dog. Today I have been ironing and packing and asking myself if I really need 18 pairs of tights and 6 pairs of boots for 7 days (the answer of course is yes). Speaking of tights…

What 36 pairs of tights looks like...

What 36 pairs of tights looks like…

I carried out a hosiery census while packing, and discovered I have 39 pairs of tights. That is a lot of black opaque for one small woman! I keep telling myself the 5 pairs of fishnets don’t count… I’ll do a full Whitby round up on my return, as I have limited internet access while away. So just checking in now to wish everyone a wonderful Halloween :)

Bat Fit Update: Review and Renew

Apologies for the temporary hiatus in accessing my blog. For personal reasons I hid from the world for a little time, and did actually contemplate closing this site down completely. After some time out rearranging my head from its state of emotional basketcasery, I’ve decided to stay put and just make some of my more personal posts private.

I’ve decided to reboot both the blog and myself by taking part in The Curious Professor Z’s Batfit update for November (posting a little early as I’m away during Halloween). Sorry, this a wordy post but it’s also been rather cathartic writing it all out.

Bat Fit

Bat Fit

Achievements

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve accomplished this year, and initially the answer was nothing. Nada. But of course, that’s not true. There have been chinks of light in the torpid grey of 2014:

  • My short story The Bone Queen was highly commended in a nation competition with Red Squirrel Press, and published in April this year. I achieved one of my writing dreams to then do a reading at Newcastle’s Lit & Phil with my closest family and friends cheering me on. I was terrified and elated, and I loved it.
  • I’ve taken some of the hardest decisions of my life this year, and don’t regret them though I do often think about the reasons I took them and whether I should feel any remorse or regret. Ultimately, the answer is no. It’s taken me 8  months to reach the point where I accept that really, I had no choice.
  • One of these decisions was to take a risk and jump into the unknown by resigning from paid, safe employment. When I reflect on this again in October 2015 I may have a different view, but given events that have taken place over the past 8 months it was the wisest decision I could have taken. If I’d stayed I would have ended up breaking down and leaving under a cloud. As it was I had a chance to say goodbye to many wonderful people, and preserve the friendships that I’d built up over 7 years. I miss some of the people, I miss the intellectual challenge of much of the work, but I really do not miss the stress of my hellish deadlines and volumes of work.
  • I threw myself out of my comfort zone and spent a week on a residential writing course. It was revelatory. Every moment was pleasure. I realised what type of writer I really want to be. I created a blueprint with a curious, quirky and demanding tutor for how I would write the book that I am supposed to be writing – and so far I am following it. I have the odd wobble, and the self doubt creeps in, but ultimately I have a golden opportunity to create something I think I’ve waited my whole life to undertake.
  • Seeing the emotional effect that my words could have on people  was utterly priceless when I made my fellow course members and tutors cry reading my short story Private 48158 as the sun set in the Scottish Highlands.
  • My husband. Him Underfoot. I couldn’t have gotten through this year without his steady, warm, loving presence by my side. He really is the star by which my compass is set.

What I’ve learned.

You may be wondering what this has to do with being Bat Fit. Well, this is housekeeping month. Clearing out my mental decks. I could reiterate everything that’s caused grief and stress this year, but some of it is not my story to tell. So let’s just look at what I’ve learned.

I’ve realised that grief can be sympathised with, and to a degree anticipated, but until it actually happens to you, the loss of a parent cannot be fully understood. There is no timescale for recovery, no set pattern for how you are going to feel from day to day. You can be sat, 8 months later, travelling with thoughts meandering, wool gathering, and then you find yourself welling up in public, the sound of his voice in your head, a snippet of a song he would have loved, the news events he’ll never be able to comment on, the stories of your past that have now been lost.

I’ve realised that it is pointless to regret choice. I rarely make important choices without a great deal of agony and procrastination. Yet when I make it, the decision is final (actually, as a grant assessor I work on basically the same principle). As long as I know I’ve looked at all options, pros and cons, then I am confident in my decisions. I think it’s important to acknowledge this to myself, as my mother is very good at undermining me, particularly in my decision to give up work and is constantly asking me if I’ve applied for a new job yet. I have patiently (and sometimes not quite so politely!) explained that my decision to leave employed work has a deadline – and it’s November 2015. Regardless of appearances, I AM working. I writing stories, developing plots, family trees. It may ultimately come to nothing – but my biggest regret would have been if I’d never taken this risk.

I’ve realised I have to force myself to be a social animal. I’m chronically shy. I never feel interesting enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, posh enough….the list is endless. Not having a formal workplace provides excellent cover for the introvert…and I’m having to challenge my social anxiety every time I make an arrangement o meet with a friend for coffee, or to go for drinks. I think they’d be astounded to read this – once I’m out I’m generally fine and have a great time. It’s the actual crossing of the door thresh I find difficult. I’d happily not speak to anyone other than my immediate family for days on end.

So, What’s A Girl to Do? Goals..

Exercise:  I need to exercise more. I’d made a great start in September, swimming twice a week and then walking the 2.3miles home from the pool home. This isn’t a chore, there’s a great coffee shop mid point on the route! I’d gone from an arthritic 20 lengths of the pool to 40 in 6 weeks and was beginning to both mentally and physically notice the benefits. Then personal armageddon hit, coupled with a really severe reaction to my annual flu jab (the first time ever) – one of my arms was basically unusable for 2 weeks (and a lovely shade of yellow and purple – they’d have chucked me out of the pool!). I haven’t been swimming or walking for 4 weeks, and physically I feel like hell.

GOAL: to get my ass back in that pool after my Halloween holiday next week and crank up the lengths again at least twice a week. There’s a ‘congratualations’ bagel & tea en route home, after all.

Alcohol: I use alcohol as a crutch. There’s been way too much of it in my life this year and I’m not enjoying it anymore, whilst occasionally craving it (more of a mental craving than physical one). I don’t drink  more than twice a week, but when I do I have no ‘off-switch’. It also makes me very emotional. At the start of the year, I took the Dry January challenge and stopped for a month. I’d been intending to carry it on, but my Dad died mid-Feb and I fell into the barrel all too readily. I’m on holiday next week, which includes a music festival and an annual meeting with friends, usually in pubs. I’m going to go, have fun, and then from the 5th November, I’m taking a month out of drinking again. My body complains now when I drink – 2 glasses of wine and I feel like a zombie the next day. I’m beginning to realise it just isn’t worth it.

GOAL: a (mostly) Dry November, followed by a Dry January pledge. And less red wine in general.

On the coffee express, Whitby

On the coffee express, Whitby

Weight: I’ve gained 7 pounds this year. That may not sound like much, but for a shrimp like me it’s very noticeable, and frankly it makes me unhappy. My clothes are a tad on the tight side, I feel frumpy and I’m off to Whitby Goth Weekend next week, and feeling that everything is just a bit uncomfortable. Him Underfoot keeps telling me not to worry (he can’t see past the cleavage, bless him), but I’m female. I worry. I go out socially. Then I drink to cope with the social anxiety. And eat cheese. And the circle starts…!

Not this year. We’re self catering and we are poorer than previous years. So less eating out at American Diners (yummiest breakfasts in the world) and more omelettes in our own abode. Fewer cheesy chips wile watching the bands (a bit of a tradition) and a baked spud instead. We’re still going to drink too much, but I’ve also arrange afternoon tea as an alternative with one friend. And it’s Whitby. The one week of the year I can do whatever the hell I like.

GOAL: I’d like to be between 7-10 pounds lighter by this stage next year. Sounds simple….!

Personal achievements: I’ve mentioned that my Sabbatical will last until at least November 2015. Him Underfoot & I have a goal in mind for that stage – a full first draft of the novel that is currently in the incubation period. I’ve just completed 3 months of research, and the plot threads are beginning to knit themselves together. I also have a potential writing mentor from January through my local library. They give you deadlines! I need deadlines! This is my overarching aim for the year ahead.

I also want to get more financially astute. I need to keep a stronger track of where money is going over the next 12 months. I’ve already cut back greatly, but there needs to be a second cut from January 2015. HU and I have agreed that over the Christmas Holidays we are going to have a full financial audit together, as next year will be rather lean.

And I promise not to become a hermit!  I WILL have a social life…

Sophistique Noir White & Black Theme: Mourning Bracelets

 

During my late teens I lost my lovely Grandmother Elsie Margaret to a stroke. She died peacefully in her sleep, in her own bed – something I have lately begun to realise is very rare. She suffered from agoraphobia very badly during the last 8 years of her life, following the death of my equally lovely Grandfather John Robson.  I used to ‘grandma’ sit during this time, as my aunty had given up work to become her full time carer, and had little opportunity to get out and have time to herself.

I’d not at this stage of my life heard of the Victorian trend towards buying mourning jewellery such as jet. My grandma was not a wealthy woman but I was left a teeny sum of money from her estate. I decided to buy two bracelets with it, black enamel with a white and silver flower pattern hand painted on the surface.

Mourning Bracelets

Mourning Bracelets

I recall at the time my mother thought I should have bought ‘more fashionable’ jewellery – but these suited my particular style and my Grandma loved flowers. During her last year I was in my first at uni, a short bus ride away from her house. In between lectures I’d hop on a bus and go see her and aunty for a cup of tea. I always took her flowers. Usually carnations, but if I had a little extra cash I bought white freesia, her favourite flower.

Elsie Margaret during the 1920s

Elsie Margaret during the 1920s

When I read this month’s theme from the lovely Sophistique Noir was black and white my thoughts immediately went to these two seemingly insignificant bracelets. After 23 years of loss I still wear them at least once a week. Every time I do I think of my lovely Grandma and remember how lucky we were to have her as part of our lives. She wasn’t perfect – she was 4 foot 10 inches of pure temper sometimes (my mum being her 5 foot equivalent!), but she adored me and my brother. She loved the way my hair glows copper in the sun. I needed that as a teenager, when all around me were telling me how ugly red hair is and that I should dye it – something to this day which I have never done. She was proud of me in the way only grandparents can be, and the last time I saw her insisted on giving me extra pocket money because I’d just passed my first year at university.

So I dedicate this post to Elsie Margaret, and I will continue to wear my beautiful enamel bracelets for hopefully the next 23 years and remember a very ordinary and yet very special little woman.

Body Worlds Vital

WARNING: This post is not for the squeamish or those who do not wish to look at photos of deceased humans. 

Additionally, there was strictly no photography at this exhibition so photographs have been take from The Guardian (Arterial Man’s head) and the Northern Echo (body slices & dissected head).  I’ve linked to their very interesting articles on the exhibition. 

I’ve wanted to see the Gunther Von Hagens Body Worlds Vital exhibition at Newcastle’s Centre for Life for some time now. Strangely, my longing came from an unusual source – watching Casino Royale and the scene where James Bond is chasing villains around an older Body Works exhibition, I became rather intrigued by the plasticisation of human tissue, and how Von Hagens and his team manipulate it into statuesque and remarkable poses. So when my niece Jess suggested we go this morning as part of her pre-uni visit up north to see her relatives, I agreed immediately.

Now I realise that spending time in the company of death is not most peoples’ idea of a bonding outing (perhaps a trip to Vivienne Westwood would have been more so!) but Jess & I are not squeamish, I’ve been fascinated with anatomy for a while and she is studying psychology and has at some point to dissect a human brain. This was the softer option of looking into someone’s head in some respects!

Curator Dr Angelina Whalley with the tissue slices

Curator Dr Angelina Whalley with the tissue slices

Truth be told I wasn’t quite sure how I’d react. I knew there were 12 full bodies on display; I hadn’t realised that there would also be a wealth of plasticised organs, slices of human bodies (which were probably the creepiest exhibit for us), slices of brain tissues, contrasting healthy & diseased organs (smokers really should go visit the lungs…and the slice of smokers’ leg with it’s completely necrotic tissue), beautifully detailed nerve pathways throughout the human body etc.  It was very educational (though I might not eat sausage for a while), and I actually would like to go again because there was so much I couldn’t take in.

Body Worlds Vital: a face exquisitely dissected and displayed

Body Worlds Vital: a face exquisitely dissected and displayed

The bodies and organs are all freely donated after death and are anonymous.  You can generally tell which are male & female, and they are dissected and arranged with great care and attention to detail. It’s difficult to describe their beauty, because you are always aware that you are looking at another human, one who can no longer breathe, talk, laugh, smile. But they can communicate and educate – even mundane things like identifying the large muscle that runs from my right shoulder into my neck that ofter goes into spasm and being shocked at how large it is (no wonder it hurts so much!). The dissection techniques that split bodies into 3 separate structures of muscle mass, organs and skeleton are exquisite – though I could perhaps have done without the eyelashes, toenails and navels. Jess definitely agreed about the toenails!

Of all the full bodies exhibited, I was most entranced by Arterial Man. A human skeleton on whom all the flesh had been carefully removed leaving only the bright red outline of the arterial pathways throughout the body, coloured red. It was astounding, both as a work of science and as a work of art.

Arterial Man

Arterial Man

Finally, you come to a small dark room with a warning. I checked with Jess that she wanted to go in, as it was the gestational room, and if any part of this exhibition has the capacity to distress, it’s this one. Beautifully and respectfully presented, it showed the gestational process of humans in the womb. Several illuminated glass tubes held the tiniest of forms, a human foetus at 5 weeks the size of a pea, working up to week 9 when the child was the size of a kidney bean. We were both profoundly moved by these tiny scraps of humanity. Of all the displays, I found this emotionally difficult to view- and caused me an ethical problem. The adults all gave consent to be displayed; I’m not sure how I felt about foetuses being used in this way as their opinions could never be heard. Its something I will have to mull on for a little while.

I would never push anyone else to go see this – in fact Him Underfoot has been advised not to go because he is a great deal more emotional than me and I suspect he would find it very difficult to process. I am very glad I had the opportunity to see this exhibition; we both took so much away from it. Astounding.

Random Facts

Over on Facebook a friend nominated me to come up with 20 random factoids that people may not know about me.  Just did so, and thought it may be fun to share them with you guys.

1. My first name is actually Victoria, but I have always been called by my middle name, Jane. Even now I find it strange when I go to appointments and they call out Victoria
2. I am an April Fool
3. I’m a natural redhead but I have naturally black eye lashes and eye brows (which have a tendency to take over my entire forehead if left unchecked). This causes no end of interrogation from hair dressers etc, who are always amazed that I don’t dye either my hair or my lashes
4. I spent several of my early years living above a pub in Winlaton, a small northern village, where I suspect I lived on a steady diet of coke and salt & vinegar crisps. I used to love the leek shows, the cheese and pickles on the bar, the fact that if I snuck downstairs at closing time I could scavenge fish and chips that were always bought in for the staff. I was also small enough to get under the fixed seating where I used to find so much money people had dropped that I managed to equip my Sindy doll’s house with a splendidly awful yellow and brown bathroon suite.

The Crown & Cannon - my bedroom was in the odd corner above the red door

The Crown & Cannon – my bedroom was in the odd corner above the red door


5. I bought my first pair of Doctor Martins aged 18 and have been a DM whore ever since. Still can’t do heels, despite being a shrimp. I currently have 4 pairs, including my cherry red shoes, standard black boots, my beautiful heeled Darcy dancing boots and a long pair of patent leathers that are beyond comfortable.
6. I may love goth / rock music, but I also have the guilty pleasure of loving female orientated bubble gum pop which I sing frequently & loudly in the car (Little Mix, Britney, Christina, Girls Aloud, Rihanna, J-Lo, Enrique (he’s an honorary girl))…
7. Ditto Spandau Ballet’s back catalogue. My big brother took me to see them when I was 13 and just getting into music – my first ever concert. I’ve adored them since.
8. You all know I write short stories, but I am also a dreadful poet!
9. After having ME / CFS as a teenager for 2 years I find it difficult to stay up past 9pm on a night time, I crave my bed and can barely function past this time unless fuelled by alcohol.And then I get 3 day hangovers..
10. I am obsessive about how the dishwasher is stacked and frequently have to re-organise rogue items (Him Underfoot can get a little indignant about this!)
11. I LOVE doing surveys & questionnaires and having a good whinge to government / political canvassers, and indeed have just done a doorstep one this morning, for which I rather surprisingly got paid £25.
12. Chocolate may be the food of the gods, but it’s cheese I couldn’t live without!
13. I can’t stop buying inappropriate frocks on Ebay…
14. I always seem to get monumentally hammererd when my big brother David is in the building….! Though of course I take full responsibility for my prodigious libations..
15. I always swore never to have a Kindle but secretly I love it…
16. Roses are my favourite flowers, blackbirds are my favourite birds, so both are encouraged in my yarden (along with a world of weedage)

Mrs Blackbird terrorised by great tits!

Mrs Blackbird terrorised by great tits!

17. My entire life revolves around Miss Sally Robert’s feeding & walking schedule!
18. I hate scratchy sheets and use flannelette even in summer. And my bedding is always white, which is a pain with a black hairy dog in the building.
19. Rather surprisingly, I though both Dracula & Frankenstein were dreadful books to read (as were the two 1990s film versions of each to watch), though I like the story themes.
20. I turn into a screaming howling banshee if ever I come into contact with wasps. There is no rational reason for the existence of wasps, other than to terrorise me. Death to wasp kind!

Random, I know, but did make me (and my brother) smile :)

Interlude: Isabella & The Pot of Basil

I’ve been in a bit of a snit recently, hence the radio silence. I had to take myself in hand at one point and force myself out of the house. Many of the local libraries and galleries local to me are currently running small but very well constructed World War 1 exhibitions, so I headed to the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle to see their petite but interesting selection of original art produced by artists local to my region. I particularly liked lithographs by brothers Philip & Robert Spence from North Shields, and an imposing post war picture by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevison‘s Twentieth Century that was based on Rodin’s Thinker and somewhat taller than me!

WW1 Ambulance Lithograph by Robert Spence

WW1 Ambulance Lithograph by Robert Spence

I like the Laing, I often used to lurk in there on my lunch breaks as it’s a pretty building and has a nice shop. I know very little about art, but I do like to visit the John Martin paintings there, my favourites being The Burning of Sodom & Gomorrah (which was a commentary on the hell of post industrial revolution factories) and Clyte, where she almost seems to float off the canvas with her own inner light (sadly not captured in a photo).

However, the picture that completely lifted me out of my gloom on this particular visit was one I’d not noticed before – William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil – it had previously been hung up high on the stair walls. Quite rightly it is now more prominently displayed in the permanent collection. It is absolutely stunning. The canvas is massive, I felt dwarfed standing before it.  I’ve seen the Titians at the National Gallery in Edinburgh – this for me actually rivalled them for beauty. The picture I am inserting into this post doesn’t do it justice – it absolute glows from the wall and the intricate details, such as the skulls on the post, are exquisitely rendered. It in turn was inspired by the John Keats poem Isabella.

Holman Hunt's Isabella & the Pot of Basil

Holman Hunt’s Isabella & the Pot of Basil

I just sat and admired it. Didn’t want to leave it. Actually wanted to steal it. Still do. It’s amazing how something painted over 150 years ago can still be so fresh, so vivid – and yet the artist will never know how it continues to reach people. A melancholy thought perhaps. But fitting to my current frame of mind.

Bellini Bliss

This time last week we were checking into the gorgeous Hotel Du Vin in Newcastle, sitting on a private outdoor terrace drinking wine and contemplating much cake-age and gig fun to come. I don’t think I’ve recovered from that one night of excess yet. Afternoon tea at Du Vin was as always lovely – some reviews I’ve read complain about the ‘sparseness’ of the portions. Really? We had sandwiches, a scone each and 3 cakes, tea and a complimentary cocktail.

Bellini Bliss & chocolate eclair heaven

Bellini Bliss & chocolate eclair heaven

For us the portion sizes were perfect; indeed we couldn’t finish our 3rd cake each.  This was my first ever Bellini cocktail, and boy was it delightful?! I don’t generally drink cocktails but this was bliss. Him Underfoot meanwhile had something called a ‘Stormy Weather’…hmmmm!

There were photos taken of me, but I had basically been eaten by the corner of a squishy leather settee and look like a munchkin woman so I am preserving my dignity by deleting the evidence for all eternity!  We stayed overnight at the hotel, and I had to be pried out of bed for breakfast – it was like sleeping on a cloud.

Cloud Bed

Cloud Bed

We trundled off to the gig at 6ish – doors opened at 6pm, so they told us. They lied. Doors opened after 7. I have to say, goths form a generally very orderly and non whiney queue. There was a little bit of glitter throwing at one another but it was all very civilised. On entering the bar / venue / low ceiling’d hovel the barkeep fastened ‘age verified’ bracelets to us – the place had just been raided for underaged drinking, Turns out parents are taking their kids to gigs and plying them with beer so we were also not allowed to buy more than one beer at at time. Given it’s horrifically inflated price this was not an issue.

So. On stage trundles Acoustic Boy (I’m sorry, can’t remember the poor lad’s name). Played like Ed Sheeran with his balls in a vice. Then got progressively shriller. Think he’d been electrocuted, again in the gonadal area.  Hats off to him for the entertainment though.

Then the lovely Bad Pollyanna. Sigh. If you read this blog you’ll already know I love them. Well, they were better than ever and I got a great big girl hug off Olivia. So now I can die happy. Well, perhaps after Whitby where I get to see them again.

Followed by AshestoAngels. Bloody hell! On record they sound a bit like Green Day. In person they are quite extraordinary. The lead singer Crilly appears to be on a rocket powered pogo stick. Except it’s just his legs. So much fun and energy – I so want to see them again. And again and again. I laughed and smiled through the entire set. And found my own bit of pogo power.

So, William Control. I had no real expectations for his set. I noticed there were many teenage girls getting rather excited at his presence. Then he came suaving up on stage and they all started screaming….dear gods! I’d forgotten how shrill adulation could get. There was this rather beautiful man singing like the bastard child of Depeche Mode and New Order….if I’d been 15 years younger I suspect I’d have been screamaging along with the youth. I confess myself both a little shaken AND stirred. And that doesn’t happen to these crusty old bones very often these days (well, unless I’m watching Gannicus in Spartacus…IGNITION!).

William Con - uh, ok gratuitous Gannicus picture

William Con – uh, ok gratuitous Gannicus picture

I was utterly foot sore and just a little bit merry as we walked back to the hotel (feather bed…aaahhhhh!). Him Underfoot proposed a pint in the bar where I ordered possibly the most expensive glass of Pinot Noir I’ve ever drank. Who cares? It was awesome. And the sofa ate me again. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

Read the small print

Ice bucket challenge. All for charity, right? Nope – originally it was created to get out of donating to ALS, a bloody awful disease that deserves every penny it raises for research and support for people with this awful disease. Now ice buckets are being dumped from high on the great and good. Has the message been lost? I suspect so. Macmillan have rather naughtily suggested it was their idea in the first place. I’m not getting into the politics; what I will say is that I worked with some brilliant charities, and the ones that I choose to donate to are not the ones that give me the highest social media status.

So Mine and Him Underfoot’s current status to anyone even remotely considering “nominating” us for the ice bucket challenge? The House of No Seasons and it’s grumpy gothic residents are saying ‘BUGGER OFF’.
Computer Says No

Computer Says No

It’s great that social media can raise awareness. It’s great that it raises money. But the cynic in me watches people strip to their soggy short and curlies with no intention of donating, just to flex those perfect pecs, and thinks, no thanks. This mass produced self gratification just ain’t for me. 

 

The Professor’s Monthly Homework Assignment: Vintage Heavy Metal Music

So this is the first of these assignments I’ve carried out, and a great place to start because I can’t imagine my life without it being filled with music.  Beware the nostalgia wallow to follow…! My father loved Neil Diamond, my mum Cliff Richard (this apple fell quite far from that particular tree!). Before they split they ran a pub in which there was a solitary turntable that cranked out late 70s singles, including the phenomenal Gordon is a Moron by Jilted John, and Ian Drury’s Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick.

Aged 17, post Jesus & Mary Chain gig

Aged 17, post Jesus & Mary Chain gig

At the same time my big brother was falling in love with metal. AC/DC, Led Zep, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Slayer, Black Sabbath, The Scorpions – the first posters on my otherwise pink bedroom walls were his discarded Rainbow pics (‘it’s been only an hour, since they locked her in the TOWER!’ – 20th Century Greensleeves). I was designated his personal slave at this point of our relationship and every Saturday after the night before he’d lie stinking in bed and I would have to change his records for him (he cringes when I remind him of this now!). He also loved the theatrical – Meatloaf, ELO and Queen. Through him I had a solid metal education which stood me in good stead with the long haired boys of my clubbing years – whilst my personal tastes were decidedly goth, I could talk Ozzy with the best of them.

House Party Era: Oh Dear!

House Party Era: Oh Dear!

As I am the only person left in the family with a turntable I have now inherited his entire vinyl collection. At Christmas last year Big Bro turned up with several boxes, and his lovely wife also gifted me her alternative 80’s (including most of the Smiths back catalogue). Christmas Day 2013 then became an epic sing off in the dining room, much to my mum’s horror. All was going well until my brother and I decided to have a duel to ‘Whole Lotta Rosie‘…

During the late 1980s and early 1990s I spent time in my bedroom wearing black, fingerless gloves indoors in summer and listening to the Cure, All About Eve, Jesus and the Mary Chain, The Mission etc etc like a proper baby bat. These years didn’t have a great deal to offer for the local goth in Newcastle, so we all mushed in with the metallers in Trillians rock bar and then the Mayfair nightclub. My best friend Heather was – and still is – an uber-rock babe. I’d be swathed in black cotton or velvet, she’d be strutting about on podiums in faux leather hot pants and bustier. All the boys in sixth form were into Guns and Roses, Anthrax, WASP and the Kings of Hair Metal – Motley Crue. It was as if the 1990’s grunge era bypassed Newcastle – like me it was stuck firmly in the 80s though I did an impressively bad dance floor stomp to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I still love this music. It reminds me of a time when life wasn’t so complicated.  It was light in world that was otherwise swathed in shades of black. It was my openly guilty pleasure. It brings my family and friends together, bonded under a common thread of nostalgia.

Pre-clubbing photo: several ozone layers were damaged in the taking of this picture

Pre-clubbing photo: several ozone layers were damaged in the taking of this picture

This music has also wound it’s way into my writing. Each book I’ve written, or story I’m plotting, has a playlist. The metal era informs my 1980’s coming of age novel, Poison Prince, where every chapter heading is a song from the 1980s. I have I-Pod playlists set up accordingly – for novels each one has a total of 31 tracks for no reason that I have yet fathomed. I’m currently researching music of the Great War which is taking me into completely uncharted territory – hymns, classical music, war ballads etc. The playlist isn’t complete yet but it begins with Vaughan Williams Lark Ascending, which was written on the eve of war.

Tonight I’m off to an alt / goth gig. Right now I’m off to crank up my old turntable again, and shake my ass to a Queen crescendo. Have a great weekend, people.

Recovery

Recovery…has been slow. This chest infection was a great deal harder to fight off than normal. I suspect this is a sign of my overall lack of self care recently, and my generally low mood. Well, today I need to snap out of it.  I haven’t posted any Bat Fit updates, because frankly I haven’t moved either an inch or a pound from my original position!  Even a short walk has been outside my capabilities for the past 2 weeks. The good thing about this is that I have generally been inhaling badness (sugar, alcohol, dairy) whilst unable to exercise at all and haven’t actually gained any weight – though next week I need my ‘sense’ chip to kick back in before the creep begins..

The joys of my throat infection, neatly illustrated by Dave McKean

The joys of my throat infection, neatly illustrated by Dave McKean

However, this has now passed, and whilst (*my constant use of the word ‘whilst‘ really irritated my tutors in Scotland!) I am very much on the mend, I look dreadful! Him Underfoot and I have decided to pick ourselves up this weekend, and have booked the dog in with her grandparents for a night, whilst we swank off to a deluxe suite in Newcastle’s Hotel Du Vin, with afternoon tea booked for 4pm tomorrow. This coincides with the William Control ‘Punishment’ tour being in town, so we are off to see him, Bad Pollyanna and Ashes to Angels whooo!

This may seem like a major indulgence (actually it is!), and it comes courtesy of my lovely brother & his wide who gifted us a Du Vin voucher for Christmas. We were supposed to use it in February for Him Underfoot’s birthday, but sadly that was the week my Dad died, so everything was cancelled and we’ve not had the inclination to use it until now.

So I’m planning a mega self pampering session this afternoon. I’m awaiting an Illamasqua delivery (scheduled rather precisely between 12:17 and 13:17) – they are having an epic sale and I really needed to update my precision ink, lip glosses and satin primer (sadly the one thing not in the sale). Cue spending frenzy and much anticipation, plus a real clear out of stagnant make up.

Also, I never quite know what to wear for gigs. I’m staying in a posh hotel, fancy wearing a frock for tea – but it’s not suitable for the gig. So I will no doubt look like a pack donkey when I troll up at the hotel as I will be unable to leave home without 3 dresses and several pairs of boots. I know the venue, skinny black jeans are by far the most appropriate attire (though there was a fairy there when I went to see Ayria). I do suspect we will be the oldest swingers in town at this particular gig, but never mind!

A face full of blueberry goodness

A face full of blueberry goodness

WHOO! Delivery goodies just arrived, so now time to go soak, shape eyebrows, slaver on Lush’s blueberry catastrophe face mask and then have a major wardrobe argument when I pack for tomorrow. Things can only get better!