Farewell

Mid summer. The perfect evening to take my Dad home to Rowlands Gill, where he is now under the watchful eye of the Red Kites in the Derwent Valley, in a beautiful grass meadow filled with pink clover and buttercups, bordered by holly and oak trees. Sweet and fitting that he lies within the holly’s protection.

Requiescat in pace et in amore.

 

Fragments

I found myself wandering about with insomnia again last night; however knowing that I don’t have to get up at stupid-o’clock for work and can have a lie in helps take the edge off it. Last night was different from the usual thought train of worry, stress and more worry that tends to trundle through my brain at inappropriate hours. There were fragments of conversation that I needed to get out and into print format that had been building up over the past few days of non-writing activity. Rather frustratingly they aren’t remotely connected to what I am supposed to be writing about at the moment – but a throwback to an abandoned project from 2006 that I lost when the dog ate my laptop cable and I blew it up when I foolishly turned on the power…there’s an incident never to be repeated (and I now have the joys of Dropbox to back everything up to – lesson very much learned when you lose 20,000 words of a sci-fi novel).

Darling leave a light on for me (pic: Dave McKean)

Darling leave a light on for me (pic: Dave McKean)

Last night I managed to retrieve 7,000 words from the ethernet and was sat reading in bemusement wondering where the hell this stuff had come from. It was like I’d switched off my rational brain somewhere along the way and entered a parallel universe. Now I guess this is what writers are supposed to do, but I was in a dark place back in 2006 and it really shows. I’m a little wary of kickstarting this project off again, but I was surprised at the quality of the writing. I think at the time I was working in Lottery Towers, an insignificant battery in that particular farm and I literally resigned from that job a couple of months after writing this to move into the job I’ve just left, as well as signing on for my Creative Writing Masters (using this piece as part of my application portfolio along with some utterly appalling poetry).

It’s been a month now since I left work, and this is the first real piece of writing I have contributed to, other than polishing up a short story for the Room to Write short story comp (Sister Vampire, one of my faves but the jury is out amongst my family – the humour is a little bleak in this one!). I’m glad I’m writing again but I am a little concerned about the direction it’s going in – Shattered Orb is not a commercial piece in the slightest, the fragments I do have are disjointed and strangely abstract (much more like my short story style than my novel voice). I’m at a loss as to which way I should travel with the project.

Is this how all fledgling writers feel? It’s like taking baby steps in the dark. I’m not sure whether to go with my gut and spend time on something that mentally is not that great a place to be (but conversely may need to be gotten out of my system) or to concentrate on one of the 2 far more commercial novels I’ve been writing? It’s further complicated as Poison Prince is at a point where the main character’s father is about to die in a miserable protracted way from alcoholic liver disease (which I’ve always planned as a key plot point) – and given my own father’s recent passing, that’s another place that mentally I’m stepping away from.

So I am wittering and procrastinating here on my blog and thus avoiding doing anything constructive. I have booked myself into a session with a local creative writing tutor at the library next week (free! Bless you North Tyneside Library Service), which is being run to promote Story Tyne 2014. I won this comp in 2011, which led to my first ever publication. I’m hoping it helps focus my butterfly brain. I’m also off to do some voluntary work on Tuesday with a super charity who have asked me to engage my ‘work brain’ to help them out with a large funding bid. Given the paucity of my common sense right now I’m hoping I can actually help in a constructive manner.

Right, lets see where these errant fingers take me…

BTA is reading Den of Geek updates and Fortean Times, anticipating seeing Bad Pollyanna and Ayria tonight, listening to second hand Muse (Him Underfoot is working from home in the room next door and BLASTING THE MUSE!!!)

Value(s)

How do you place a value on something? I ask, because an off the cuff comment on Facebook provoked quite a heated discussion amongst my friends yesterday, much to my surprise.

I am running an Ebay auction of random items of clothing at the moment. Some are vintage pieces I picked up because they are beautiful but that I really have no use for. Others are items I will never wear again but which are in decent condition – like a monster of a green frock I wore to a friend’s wedding in the 1990’s which is now rather pleasingly 2 sizes too large for me (and which has lasted much longer than the actual marriage in question). I’m trying to generate enough cash to buy this corseted frock.

Then there’s this little dress:

Much furore over this little thing...?

Much furore over this little thing…?

It’s pretty, it’s in decent condition (mainly because I had major chest spillage on every unfortunate wear so it was relegated to a storage box pretty early on) – but it isn’t an expensive dress. I picked it up new for £10 from a chain store. So I bunged it on Ebay several months ago where it resolutely refused to sell. I only included it in this round of selling because it’s prom season, pricing it at a reasonable £3.50. Whereupon it still didn’t sell. Ebay trundled on and relisted it as it does and I was rather surprised to receive a query on it yesterday, which on reply prompted a buy it now offer of £15. FIFTEEN POUNDS!!! It was accompanied by a very nice message from a teenager who would like to secure it for prom, so made me this whopping offer.

Now I like the dress – I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. But I know it isn’t worth that much money. And I was reared on John Hughes movies being a true child of the 80s. Pretty In Pink is engraved into my soul. We didn’t have proms in my day, but if we had I’d have been the skint, if slightly less popular red headed, UK counterpart to Molly Ringwald. I cannot in my bones fleece a teenager for what should be one of the best nights of their life. I told her she could have it for £5 plus postage and we are both happy.

I mention this transaction in passing on Facebook and all hell breaks out.  There’s the ‘oh you nice person’ camp and then there’s the virulent ‘oh you soft shite’ camp that informs me that all of today’s teenagers are loaded and that I should fleece her for as much as I possibly can, accompanied by several rather amusing insults at my expense and a discussion of how I should just call myself a charitable basket case… And these people call themselves my friends!

I’m no saint. I am after all selling the dress but I feel I got a decent contribution to the frock fund from this transaction. She goes away happy that she didn’t get ripped off. What I have found illuminating about the whole FB debacle is that the people calling me an idiot are people I generally knew as teenagers and went to school with.  They all fall into the bracket of those I knew who had parents prepared to bankroll their every whim. The more generously inclined souls fall into the same cash poor demographic as I did. Right now it’s 1:30am and insomnia is making ants do the fandango round my cranium and I am too tired to ponder the nuances of that or make sweeping generalisations about how we come to value the many transactions we make in life, other than to say for me – I would have been squirming with guilt selling something so overpriced.  Even with another £25 still to raise for my own dream frock, I made the right call.

BTA is tonight reading Cynan Jone’s brutally wonderful The Dig (which may be why she isn’t sleeping), and listening to Ayria and Bad Pollyanna whilst plotting what to sell next from the dress closet…

Summer

It is officially British summer time. Normally this is a cause for sarcastic laughter in this sceptered isle, as it heralds a period of cold downpours, strong winds and generally awful conditions. With the odd ray of sun popping through. Which suits me fine, loathing as I do any hint of the thermometer going above 20 degrees centigrade. I hate being hot. I hate being slathered in factor 50 emulsion. Grass pollen is the enemy. I do not like to show any hint of skin (arms and legs included), and weep at the mere suggestion I remove my legs from their 60 denier opaques. In short, I am a true pale skinned, hairy Celt.

Alas, my usually reliably soggy Isle is letting me down. Cue the hottest week in JUne since the 1940s. Sun. Heat in excess of 25 degrees C, even in the north. Gah!

Thankfully the House of No Seasons is exactly that – a cool pale oasis in a world of naked orange flesh. The football world cup is about to begin – cue much misguided faith in the ability of English footballers to shoot straight, excessive swilling of supermarket discounted larger followed by a corresponding increase in domestic violence when our usually rain drenched players are exposed to their inadequacies in the humidity of Rio.

And the insects! Now I’ll be the first to admit our British insects are in no way scary when compared with those in – say – Australia. They’re generally not lethal for starters. But I am an allergic mess right now, and I react very badly to any insect bites or stings, which has resulted in my very odd behaviour on occasion on public transport (shoes off, dementedly braying wasps into a pulp being one example).

Now we have this cute wooden shack in a wood. For the past 4 years we’ve been rebuilding it, and have reached a stage where it’s borderline habitable. We trundled up to our little section of paradise at the weekend, undertaking an extreme weeding, cleaned out springs and streams and drains and decided to have a cup of tea on the decking. We’d noticed a few bees lurking above the shack door the weekend before, but paid no heed. The sun came round, noon hit and POW! The little blighters were everywhere.  They’ve nested in the shack roof. And boy, are they angry little sods.

Shack Shack Baby

Shack Shack Baby

European tree bees. Sound cute, don’t they? Until they sit on your head and begin dive bombing you. I suspect throwing my Earl Grey at them didn’t really help, but I found myself running through our plot, down the stone steps to the wood and landing on my ass in one of the springs. Hey, play the glad game – I didn’t break my mug though I do have some splendid bruises. I looked up to see Him Underfoot being chased in the opposite direction by several more angry bees. Being giant wusses we called it a day and trekked the long way through the wood back to the car, unwilling to risk their wrath by crossing the decking again.

Now, I generally like bees. I like the true bumbling British variety that cruise about in their own little pollen-y world, harming no one. I do not like these angry invaders. However, they are protected by law, and we will leave them to swarm (apparently in July. JULY?!) as they are great pollinators before firmly sealing any remaining holes under the roofing canopy. Apparently people find their dancing outside the nest fascinating…well, I see it as a human stealth bomb warm up.

So summer. Roll on Autumn. September rocks.

Red & Black Day 6: The World Outside Your Window

The final day. My final thoughts. I’ve just one picture to post today, and the story behind it. My apologies, it is a long, wordy post so please bear with me.

End of an era :(

End of an era (dress: Toto by Hell Bunny – check out the gorgeous twisted Alice in Wonderland print)

 

This was taken on May 22nd, in the appropriately named Cafe Rouge, about 30 minutes after I finished my last day of paid employment in over 20 years. The lovely lady sitting with me , Sue, has been my ‘work wife’ for 7 years – we’ve job shared, developed and delivered grant programmes together, gone through marriage break ups (hers), family deaths (mine), triumphs and tears across a third of my working life.

For those new to my blog, I resigned from work in April after a particularly rough start to the year to take a sabbatical. I didn’t resign because I hated my job – I had a great job – engaging, rewarding, demanding and one that brought me into contact with a wonderful bunch of people who – like me – had a strong ethos of supporting the underdog and redistributing wealth with a social conscious. I left because I knew that mentally I was wiped out and unable to deliver my work to the standard I personally demand, and the one thing that this wonderful place couldn’t give me was time to repair my shields and rebuild my fractured emotions.

I do not regret for one moment my resignation.  There are a number of goals I wish to achieve before looking for paid, regular work again. The one thing that did scare me was a worry of social isolation once I no longer had to walk into the office community. My first full week out of work was last week – when I had two sets of people staying with me, social events and a funeral to attend.  It was THIS week that I was worrying about.

Once the hoopla had died down, and the guests had left, I then had to reboot myself with a purpose this week. I want to write, but I was frightened of switching on the Mac. Of picking up the pen.  I didn’t know where to start. I always knew that inertia was my biggest weakness, and that there was a real danger that I would draw the curtains closed in The House of No Seasons and retreat to the settee under a duvet, hiding from the world and from any form of socialisation.

I am aware that my blogging voice is quite a chirpy one, at least publically. I do have a number of locked posts on this blog that look at the darker, most fragile side of my psyche – there is a reason why I identify as goth, and have done so for over 20 years.  I have a tendency towards melancholy that I have to keep in check.

So what’s all this have to do with Red & Black week?

Well, I had been a lurker on Victorian Kitty’s blog for a while. Towards the end of last week I was restlessly web surfing (aka procrastination), when I came across Red & Black week. As I mentioned on an initial comment on her blog, I was a little stumped by the idea, thinking that I had no real input to give.  And then I embarked on a wardrobe clear out and began to look at what I do have from a new perspective. I have no income for the moment.  This challenge gave me just the kick in the pants I needed to get motivated, think creatively and to rediscover some beautiful clothes that have quite simply been overlooked or neglected for some time. I also began to look at my surroundings in a new light.

More than this – it gave me a reason to boot up the Mac at 8:30am every morning an write a blog post. To get into a routine of focusing my brain on a specific writing task which I then have to deliver within a 2 hour window (it also gave me a pretty funny insight into how not to take a selfie!). This is invaluable to me moving forward, as the template is now set for disciplining myself next week as I begin to develop and complete commercial pieces I have been working on.

But the most important element for me of Red & Black Week?  It’s given me a community. A great community that is world wide and made up of women of all ages and interests, bound together by a common thread. It’s given me a reason to talk, albeit virtually, to smart, funny, creative people. What has shone through for me personally this week is how lovely everyone is, how supportive and positive – I’ve not seen any negative posts or comments on any of the many blogs I have read – and this bears shouting about in a world of negativity and people seeking to bring other people down through careless comments. Ladies, you are a credit to the gothic community.

Next week is a new week and it is up to me where I take this mind of mine. I feel so much more positive about it. And I want to thank everyone who has made it to the end of the mammoth post, or taken the time to stop by (commenting or not) this week. You are awesome.

And Miss Kitty – I am raising a metaphorical glass in your honour right now. You created this challenge, this community. From across the world, in a small study by the sea in England, I can’t thank you enough.

Here’s to the next challenge!

(Postscript: The title for this post came from a particular ear worm I have at the moment, an 80’s song by Tanita Tikaram. I have no idea where my brain dragged this one up from, but it’s oddly appropriate). 

Red & Black Day 5: Comfort

After a night besieged by insomnia I’ve headed for the comfort closet today.  I have to run some errands today and the north east coast is particularly soggy, so a weather appropriate outfit is called for.

So I’ve opted for skinny black jeans (Oasis Petites) and long sleeved tee, complimented by my absolute favourite ox-blood red Doc Martins – the pinnacle of foot comfort. I really got lucky with these at the awesome Scorpio Shoes in Newcastle – last in the range, size 3, half price. I was supposed to be buying new work shoes at the time…but this shop is beyond seductive.

My Cherry beauties

My Cherry beauties

My top is by a local retailer, Doc Black, who sell some wonderful frocks but also have their own t-shirt line which is both reasonably priced and hard wearing:

My dark fairy

My dark fairy

I love this hair clip by Restyle (the Key to Wonderland) which I bought some time ago – though a word of warning about Restyle’s clips – they tend not to be particularly hard wearing and I was gutted when my Mechanical Moth slide disintegrated after 2 or 3 wears. The Gothic Shop were brilliant and refunded me immediately, but the soldering on the Restyle products is not brilliant. That said, I do love Restyle’s affordable and pretty necklaces and bracelets as the poor woman’s alternative to Alchemy Gothic.

Just pretty!

Just pretty!

Finally, there’s my S.O.P.H.I.E. wristband. I am in awe of Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie’s mother, who turned tragedy into something positive as she campaigns to stamp out prejudice, hatred and intolerance everywhere in her daughter’s name. Sophie Lancaster was kicked to death for being a ‘Weirdo, Mosher, Freak’ by a gang of teenagers. Instead of retreating into grief and bitterness she has created the most wonderful tribute to her daughter with the educationally and anti-bullying focused Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

In memory of Sophie

In memory of Sophie

Through the charity it has become a hate crime in parts of the UK to abuse or attack people on the basis of them belonging to an alternative culture. The Foundation’s work is ceaseless. As a charitable grant assessor, you have to stay impartial (and I have never assessed a grant for this charity as it is based out of my working area). However, in your heart you know who is doing an outstanding job for the right reasons – and these guys are stand outs.

Until tomorrow folks.

Red & Black Day 4: Habitat Interlude

Wow! Day 4 already. This time last week I didn’t even know I would be taking part in Victorian Kitty’s Red & Black week – and it’s been a blast.

My allergies are much better today, though I had an unfortunate skin incident after that last post – the moisturiser I’ve used for years turned my face into one angry boiled freckle.  It’s calming down now, but on balance I’ve decided to make this a post that reflects my habitat (particularly my new working environment) as there was a surprising amount of red & black in the mix when I opened my eyes.

Firstly, my desk. A gift from Him Underfoot, it’s a practical thing which I also find beautiful, though I admit I am hiding it’s beauty under a bushel (well, check cloth!) because I am so paranoid of damaging the surface.

Shirkers paradise

Shirkers paradise

Yup, that is a Tardis next to my printer! The chair was a back lane find many years ago, and reclines, making it the most wonderful reading spot.  That is not necessarily conducive to my writing!

Inspiration Corner

Inspiration Corner

I keep several books on my desk to use as writing prompts if I get a little stuck. This Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe is a beautiful book which I bought alongside The Night Circus when I won £100 of book tokens with a short story. I don’t usually buy either new or hard back books as they are expensive, so these were an absolute treat. The Night Circus is also the best debut novel I have ever read, a beautifully woven magical realism homage to the circus. Everything within the circus is in shades of monochrome, except for the vibrant red of one girl’s hair. The design of the book follows this pattern and it is one of those books that is just a joy to hold. Lurking at the top is my H.P. Lovecraft collection , a gift from Him Underfoot.  The Poe & the Lovecraft are my go-to inspiration – I often read a short story in them, pick out the themes, and then rework them in my own way to get me writing. It’s produced some interesting results.

I also have an love of beautiful notebooks as I often write long hand – particularly for first draft short stories or to flesh characters out. These 2 are Moleskines, and honestly, I could bankrupt myself buying these objects of desire.  One is the Targaryen notebooks, taken from their Game of Thrones series and this one travels about with me and has visited most coffee shops in Newcastle! The second is a newbie, destined for my Scotland retreat next month and is taken from the Hobbit.  Inside there are various beautifully scripted passages from the book.

Here be Dragons!

Here be Dragons!

I would be lost without endless cups of Earl Grey tea, and for that pleasure I have this cute little teapot my mum bought me, and my Penguin Classic mug to keep me company.

Earl Grey: sustaining bad prose daily

Earl Grey: sustaining bad prose daily

And let’s be honest – my study is never normally this tidy!  Swivel the camera round and it turns into a student bedsit, complete with Him Underfoot’s cyber wig which for some inexplicable reason now lives on my shelves:

Amazed the floor hasn't caved in...

Amazed the floor hasn’t caved in…

Finally, when I returned from walking Miss Sally today I noticed the first of my oriental poppies has flowered.  Whilst everyone else’s gardens have the orange variety, mine are a beautiful blood red and a joy to behold:

Poppy Beautiful

Poppy Beautiful

See you tomorrow, for an outfit post, yay!

Red & Black Day 3: The Brooch

Day 3 of Red and Black week and today I’m wearing a brooch which combines both black, red and white.

I possess exactly 3 brooches. In truth, I sometimes struggle to know how to wear them although I think they are rather splendid items of jewellery.  I have a beautiful antique cameo given to me by my aunty and 2 from my favourite jewellers in the cosmos – W. Hamond of Whitby. They specialise in jet and amber pieces, many set in silver (my preferred metal).  The workshop also restores antique jet and makes the occasional one off piece.  One of my pieces is a beautiful oxidised silver brooch in an ornate setting decorated with opals and teardrop garnets, it is very delicate (about 2 inches long) and I absolutely love it.

Garnet & Opal Brooch

Garnet & Opal Brooch

This was a gift from Him Underfoot to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary last Halloween when we were at Whitby Goth Festival.  Hamond is conveniently situated at the foot of the Abbey steps in a beautiful shop that just happens to be seconds from the flat we stay in. It’s become a bit of a tradition for HU to buy me a gift from there on our visits, which started with very pretty amber and turquoise beaded bracelets.

The trouble with brooches is they rather demand formal wear to show them off to their full advantage. I was therefore very happy to snap up this Spin Doctor  Lavelle blouse on Ebay for a whole £4, which has the perfect neckline for a brooch:

The art of the selfie is beyond this white eyeballed wonder!

The art of the selfie is beyond this white eyeballed , slap headed wonder!

This is not the best picture of me – selfies really do boggle my head and having short arms doesn’t help the perspective! Also, I’m having a pretty rough week with allergic reactions so no makeup allowed until the swelling in my throat abates (caused rather surprisingly by a reaction to anti-nail biting polish and my tendency to – er – bite my nails regardless. What a buffoon). It also doesn’t really show my brooch off, but you get the gist. It also looks very nice on a high neck cream Victorian style blouse I have.

My 3rd brooch is a beautiful and delicate jet and silver affair which my mum bought me when she was in Whitby, and I tend to wear it on a black velvet coat I have. It’s here with my two jet necklaces (the silver bound heart another anniversary pressie which I wear virtually all the time, and the jet dot set in marcasite   is my leaving gift from work 2 weeks ago and is absolutely lovely.

Hammond loveliness

Hammond loveliness

I don’t buy that much jewellery so these pieces mean a great deal to me (yup, I can be a sentimental old biddy) and I’m intending to wear them much more now I am free from the shackles of corporate dressing.

Now off to replenish my body’s supply of antihistamines and settle down to a day’s book editing (my least favorite task). Before I go here’s an older pic of me wearing my lovely cameo. It’s technically outside the theme of the day and a little blurry but I do love it 🙂

Shiny hair!

Shiny Red Hair! Does that count?!

Til tomorrow.

Red & Black: Day 2 – The Lust List

Firstly, apologies to those who’ve stopped by to say hi – I’ve been happily reading your blog posts but I am having great difficulty posting comments to Blogger hosted blogs and don’t wish to comment-bomb anyone, so am hanging fire before attempting again. But here we are on day two of Red & Black week.

Today I am feeling somewhat scraggy of form, so no pics of me.  However, I have recently been lusting over some very nice (and frankly unaffordable) gothic items that are also red, so here is a summary of my current lust list:

Firstly there is this frankly stupendous steampunk corset from Corsets-UK:

Kick Ass Victorian Babe-Hood!

Kick Ass Victorian Babe-Hood!

I am no Xena, but this would look amazing on someone more warrior princess than me. That said, it’s an amazing price, reduced from £95 to £35 in their sale – naturally not in my size.  Grumble…  I do have one of their underbust corsets and it is stunning, excellent quality.  I am an utter convert to their gorgeousness. Go visit Corsets-UK and groan at the loveliness.  There’s an entire red section right here.

Then there’s Alchemy Gothic. I’m a bit wary of their jewellery as I am quite petite and it can be quite overpowering on my frame. Their pieces are very generously sized.  But they have one piece – the Faith & Love necklace – in their most recent collection that’s chewing on my non-rational brain:

Him Underfoot: Take Note!

Him Underfoot: Take Note!

I’ve been eying this up in my local gothic jewellers and it’s just the right size. Alas I am poor!

Then there’s my all consuming obsession with Hell Bunny frocks. In particular, the Adare. Absolutely beautiful dress, cute print and pretty corset detail, this is currently no 1 on my clothing wish list:

Haunted house frockage: it's all a bit Poe dearies

Haunted house frockage: it’s all a bit Poe dearies

I could go on.  And on and on. There’s the Sadie Doc Martins. There’s the Hell Bunny Millie coat. Several Spiral Direct tops. Barry M’s sparkly cherry lip gloss that is basically the holy grail of lip glosses and permanently sold out everywhere I look (though they always have a tester, the swines).

I need a lie down in a darkened room now. Til tomorrow, folks!