Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas is here

It's finally the week where Christmas happens - my family are really quite excited and I hope you are too. SUB wishes you all a very merry Christmas filled with fun. Here's a poem to mark the big day...

Dreams of the Morrow
by Shawn D Standfast

Tinsel bright by starlight mingle
Baubles twinkle with festive memories
As lights are dimmed and candles lit
Shadows flicker in holiday cheer

Footsteps crunch on fresh snow fallen
Downy flakes dance on misty moonbeams
Then back inside for warmth of fire
And to bed to dream of the morrow

As a snowy dawn gently breaks
Church bells echo in the stillness
Carols and songs fill excited air
Then Presents opened and cherished

Customs old and new begin the day
Late risers and arrivals just in time
For roast turkey, deserts and drink
All feed fully and drink most freely

On this late midwinter day
…this day of togetherness
…this day of good cheer
On this day of Christmas

Happy Christmas to one and all!

Posted here with permission - feel free to wander over to Shawn's site abloglesstraveled.wordpress.com and twitter @BooksR4Life

Monday, 15 December 2014

Party frocks


It's Christmas party time - a great opportunity to glam up and strut your stuff. A designer I've been seeing more of (and generally loving what I see), is Elie Saab from Lebanon. Below are some tasters from his Autumn Winter 2014 collection, with the header image from the AW14 Haute Couture collection. Absolutely fabulous, darling!

Fur and coats:


Length:


Short:

Monday, 8 December 2014

Gothic Christmas Party Music


This week it's my work Christmas party. As a first, we have been asked if we want the DJ to play any particular Christmas song for us to dance to during the evening. This is a nice touch, although I feel it will inevitably result in the same old shopping mall songs being churned out again.

However, it set me to thinking about gothic Christmas music. There's not much of it and most of what there is is not of a tempo or level of familiarity suitable for a work party (no surprise there), so I haven't requested any particular version of the Coventry Carol to dance along to. However, if you want something other than Within Temptation's Gothic Christmas track to listen to this year, here's a few treats I've found.

Terrorizer reviewed some compilation albums from Projekt Records and Black Rain. Going back as far as 1995, these may be a bit tricky to hunt down now, but you can probably find examples of the individual tracks on your favourite video content provider. There are actually quite a few good tracks here, so I recommend hunting them down.

In addition to those, I would also commend to you the Tori Amos Christmas album, Midwinter Graces and the Jill Tracy album Silver Smoke, Star of Night. Both reinterpret classic carols in wonderful and graceful ways. Hunker down in front of your Christmas tree resplendent with black decorations, take a sip from your red wine, close your eyes and let these sirens take you off into a wintry wonderland.

Monday, 1 December 2014

'Tis the season


December 1st already - where did the year go? My family home has now gone festive: the tree is up, the advent calendar started, who is visiting whom and when is organised, pantomimes are booked. A 6 year old helps you focus!

I currently have several piles of things to read, from newspaper articles to books and graphic novels. I also have plenty of games to play, on my phone, the Playstations and table top games too. I'd really like to spend December reading by the fire, a la Nightmare Before Christmas, and playing games with friends.

A personal success of the planning has been finding a way to squeeze in a trip to the British Library for its Terror and Wonder exhibition - yay! My niece is studying Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as part of her 6th Form English Studies, so I think this will be a superb visit for us both.

Strangely, this year doesn't have much in the way of spiritually-centric activities for me. Other than personal thoughts on the season and some themed Sunday morning church services, it will be fairly quiet faith-wise. My church is spending this advent examining the theme of waiting, so this feels kind of appropriate. Spiritually, this year has brought significant changes for me and some of my close friends. I feel next year holds more of the same. What exactly? Well, I guess we'll have to wait and see...

I hope you manage to find space to enjoy the festive season, take a moment (or several) to remember the spiritual centre of the celebration, find calm within the storm to spend time with friends and family, and carve out some space to read or listen to a good ghost story :)

Monday, 24 November 2014

Seascape


At my church yesterday the morning was spent looking at the spiritual influence of poetry. So, this week I would like to share a poem with you.

It uses gothic references to create wonderful imagery and gives commentary on the place of organised religion within our world. Not entirely damning, but not entirely complimentary either. Something to ponder...

Seascape
by Elizabeth Bishop

This celestial seascape, with white herons got up as angels,
flying high as they want and as far as they want sidewise
in tiers and tiers of immaculate reflections;
the whole region, from the highest heron
down to the weightless mangrove island
with bright green leaves edged neatly with bird-droppings
like illumination in silver,
and down to the suggestively Gothic arches of the mangrove roots
and the beautiful pea-green back-pasture
where occasionally a fish jumps, like a wildflower
in an ornamental spray of spray;
this cartoon by Raphael for a tapestry for a Pope:
it does look like heaven.
But a skeletal lighthouse standing there
in black and white clerical dress,
who lives on his nerves, thinks he knows better.
He thinks that hell rages below his iron feet,
that that is why the shallow water is so warm,
and he knows that heaven is not like this.
Heaven is not like flying or swimming,
but has something to do with blackness and a strong glare
and when it gets dark he will remember something
strongly worded to say on the subject.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Neil Gaiman & charity


As the son of a minister, I've been around the church all my life. My parents are also missionaries, my father regularly travelling to Eastern Europe long before the iron curtain fell. I've accompanied them on some of these trips, so have a feeling for what it can be like.

Whenever someone was taken on a mission trip for the first time, there would be an "Oh" moment - a spark of realisation about how others in the world live/survive. We may hear the stories and see the news and think we have understood the suffering that others go through, but (generally) it is only when we see first hand that it really hits home. That close encounter usually has quite the impact.

I would heartily recommend you go help a charity or mission organisation overseas if you get the opportunity - just once. To truly understand what other humans go through in countries less fortunate than ours (not that we don't have our own problems, of course), which can be properly understood through a first hand experience. Helping those people in whatever way you can, no matter how small.

This transition from shock to 'let's do something' has recently been experienced and captured by Neil Gaiman, who has released a video in support of UNHCR. Watch it, find a charity or mission to support (UNHCR or not - there are many to choose from, both locally and internationally) & consider helping in a more practical way. Money is obviously very important in keeping the wheels of charity turning, but so is the physical involvement of its supporters.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Other views


With only a week having passed since the Manchester Gothic Festival there have been a few other tweets and blogs written about the Steampunk afternoon. I thought I'd share those I have found:

Via Claire Nally: Why the #Steampunk genre isn't losing steam www.huffingtonpost.com/desirina-boskovich/why-steampunk_b_6053796.html?utm_hp_ref=tw via @HuffPostBooks #EL0662

Via Humanity Hallows: We continue our coverage of #HIPGothic #Manchester with 'What is This Thing Called Steampunk?' www.humanityhallows.co.uk/so-what-is-this-thing-called-steampunk/ @mmu_hssr @gothicmmu

Via The Blogging Goth: #Manchester #Gothic Festival 2014 - Day Two #blog #HIPGothic wp.me/p2PDAe-cB via @wordpressdotcom @gothicmmu

Via Catherine Spooner: What Is This Thing Called Steampunk? From the fabulous people @gothicmmu www.staff.mmu.ac.uk/manmetlife/news/view/steampunk

Also, it was Halloween a few days ago. Online friend and blogger Carla Valentine, curator of Barts Pathology Museum in London, was on the Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV (available to watch until the end of November) talking about the real-life medical origins of some of the monster legends. Carla has written this up into a very interesting blog, so I thought I'd share that with you. Did you know that Catholic doctrine classed lepers as undead...? I didn't. Read up for loads more interesting facts.