strange_complex: (Dracula Scars wine)
I got back on Monday night from a long weekend in Whitby spent in the company of around 40 Dracula Society members: including [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 whom I have now dragooned into joining! I went there with a smaller group of them two years ago, and managed a decent write-up of it afterwards too (LJ / DW), but this was a more formal gathering designed to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Society's first official visit there in 1977.

[personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 and I got there shortly before lunch on the Friday, but the official business didn't begin until that evening, so we spent the afternoon enjoying Gothic seaside fun in the sunshine. We pottered around the shops buying various treasures, and then headed down to the harbour front where she introduced me to Goth Blood milkshakes - basically ordinary milkshakes with bucket-loads of food colouring in them which turn your tongue blood-red after a single sip:

2017-09-08 16.42.27.jpg

I also went through the Dracula Experience: a once-in-a-lifetime audio-visual presentation of the Dracula story. I say 'once-in-a-lifetime' because it is so rubbish that it is hard to imagine anyone voluntarily going twice (for all the reasons aptly articulated in these TripAdvisor reviews). They have a cloak at the beginning of the exhibition which they claim is one of Christopher Lee's Dracula capes, but I'm afraid it clearly isn't: it has a strong diagonal ridged texture which none of Lee's capes in any of the Hammer Dracula films ever did. Still, though, the whole thing only cost three quid, and I did chuckle most of the way through at how inept it was, so I guess it wasn't the worst thing I've ever spent money on. Afterwards, we spent one whole pound each on the tuppenny falls, where [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313, who is an experienced competitive player, completely wiped the floor with me, winning more than double the amount of tuppences I had managed to score every time we compared our takings.

The evening began with the traditional gathering around the bench which the Society donated in 1980 (I suppose we'll celebrate the 40th anniversary of that in three years too!), where [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 encountered most of the Society's members for the first time, and was also introduced to tuica: Romanian plum brandy, and of course our preferred toast. The rest of the evening was informal, but Julia (the Society's very energetic chair) had laid on a wonderful programme of events for us at the Royal Hotel the following day.

We began with a screening of 27. Holy Terrors (2017), dir. Julian Butler and Mark Goodall )

We also had two talks given by members of the Society: Gail-Nina Anderson on werewolves and Barry McCann on Jekyll and Hyde. Both traced the evolution of their creatures and their stories through time, looking at how and why they have been treated differently in different circumstances, and what aspects of the human experience they have been used to explore. And although this wasn't particularly planned, both actually informed the other very neatly, and indeed made me realise something I had never really noticed before: that Jekyll and Hyde is essentially a werewolf story. As Gail had already shown us, werewolf stories have never actually been that prescriptive about the matter of how a person becomes a werewolf: many just take it for granted that they exist, and those which do try to explain how it happens offer a much wider range of possibilities than the now common idea of being bitten by an existing werewolf. Nor is the moon particularly consistently required to prompt transformations. So a story about a man who brings out his inner beast voluntarily through a potion of his own making fits right into the canon.

After lunch (roast pork baps from the Greedy Pig GET IN MY FACE!), it was time for a quiz. Given that this consisted of a ten-point round on Stoker's Dracula (which I have read multiple times and am reading right now), a ten-point round on Whitby (where I was sat while taking the quiz), and a twenty-point round on film adaptations of Dracula (which are basically the heart of [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313's and my co-conspiratorial film watching), you would have thought I might manage to do quite well on this, but no! Somehow Julia managed to make it really hard. The winner, Kate, scored a fairly modest 26.5 points out of 40, while I scraped along with 14.5 and [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 bagged a mere 11.5. It's almost like we've been wasting our lives!

Oh well, at least we had plenty of opportunity to buy up books and DVDs which might help us to do better next time in the society auction - not to mention all sorts of other goodies, from the utterly tat-tastic to the actually very tasteful. This was my personal haul, including a notebook in the shape of Christopher Lee as Dracula )

That evening was the Society's formal dinner, so I grabbed the rare opportunity to dress up in full Gothic finery with both hands. We had allowed plenty of time to walk down from our guest-house and ended up arriving ridiculously early, so, as it was still light and I don't look like this very often, [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 indulged me with a little photo-shoot.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity )

Much wine was drunk, merriment had and patrons on a ghost walk of Whitby outside the window trolled by means of a green Frankenstein torch shone at them through a white napkin (though irritatingly they didn't seem to notice). None of this, though, stopped a hardy band of us from getting up the next morning bright and early to do the six-and-a-half-mile cliff walk from Whitby to Robin Hood's Bay. This of course was all in honour of Mina and Lucy, who do just this walk in Stoker's novel straight after the funeral of the Demeter's captain: a plan concocted by Mina with a view to tiring Lucy out and stopping her from fretting about the funeral and sleep-walking that night. She records her plan in an entry on the morning of 10 August thus:
She will be dreaming of this tonight, I am sure. The whole agglomeration of things, the ship steered into port by a dead man, his attitude, tied to the wheel with a crucifix and beads, the touching funeral, the dog, now furious and now in terror, will all afford material for her dreams. I think it will be best for her to go to bed tired out physically, so I shall take her for a long walk by the cliffs to Robin Hood's Bay and back. She ought not to have much inclination for sleep-walking then.
And you can read her post-factum report of the walk itself that evening here.

We grabbed a couple of group pictures before we set off, which I hope Michael won't mind too much that I have stolen from his FB page:

Cliff walk party selfie Michael Borio.jpg

Cliff walk photo Dutch angle Michael Borio.jpg


Then off we went, past many picturesque delights )

The conversation as we walked unfolded much as you would expect in the circumstances. I can't remember exactly who said what now, but the gist of it all went more or less like this:

"Presumably Mina and Lucy can't actually have walked to Robins Hood's Bay. They must have taken a horse and cart or something."
"Oh no, it says quite clearly in the novel that they walked."
"Yes, that's right - they're obviously going across the fields because some cows come up and give them a fright."
"Can you imagine doing this in heels and a corset, though?"
"Well, Victorian women did have sensible walking boots and country clothing."
"Yes, absolutely - the Victorians were very much into their physical exercise and fresh air."
"They would still definitely have been wearing corsets, though."
"Oh yes. Mind you, the whalebone corsets had quite a lot of give in them. You would only wear the steel ones in the evening."
"Well, my respect for Mina and Lucy is increasing with every step."
"You've got to wonder if Bram ever actually thought about the implications of doing all this in a corset, though."
"Hmm, yes - good point. Well, unless he dressed up in the full regalia himself and did the whole walk that way. You know, just to really get into the heads of his characters."
"Well, given that he was 6'4", that would have been quite a sight!"

In the end, we were not as hardcore as Mina and Lucy ourselves, though. They walked both ways, and had to suffer an unwanted visit from a curate in the evening. We got the bus back, before enjoying another final dinner together ahead of our general dispersal on the Monday morning. Not that [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 and I were in a rush to get home that morning, though - not least because she didn't have any house-keys, so couldn't get into the house until [livejournal.com profile] planet_andy got home with his set anyway, and furthermore because their boiler had broken so the house would be freezing. Instead we spent most of the day in Filey, which I have never visited before, but which proved to be a charming seaside town with a lovely museum, some great charity shops, some excellent cafes, and a fountain with a surround designed like a compass showing the directions of all the locations mentioned in the shipping forecast )

They also had a crazy golf course, where [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 and I played a game so utterly inept that it more than once reduced us to tears of laughter; but I feel duty bound to note that she did beat me, with a score of 37 shots for 9 holes to my 40. Finally it was time to head home, playing games of "I Spy" and "I am a Hammer film: which one am I?" as we drove. All in all a very enjoyable and much-needed final summer jolly before term hits with a vengeance next week...
strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
A couple of weeks ago, [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and I spent a day in Saltaire, with the particular aim of checking out an antiques dealer with a bit of a line in Art Deco furniture on the top floor of Salt's Mill. I was looking in particular for a largish sideboard / cabinet to go in an alcove next to my fireplace, and I'd hardly got inside the shop when I saw an absolutely wonderful example, in a golden maple-wood finish with a bowed front and lots of lovely storage capacity. The price was high enough that I had to spend quite a bit of time thinking it over and psyching myself up before I took the plunge - but eventually I did, and it was delivered today.

This is what was previously in the alcove which it now occupies )

Perfectly all right, but not really making the best use of the space. What I needed was something that would look good and allow me to stash lots of crap inside it!

So this is what I have now )

Meanwhile, the old low-level beechwood sideboard which used to stand in its place is now surplus to my requirements, and therefore for sale to anyone who might be interested. It's good solid wood furniture, with a lovely spicy smell when you open the drawers, and there are a couple of pictures here if you want a closer look )

In other news, I spent this last weekend in Birmingham visiting the parents. Mum is still doing pretty well - enough to go to a jazz concert on Friday, have my sister and fiancé (!) round on Saturday, and then go and visit some local gardens which were having an open afternoon on Sunday. While there, I also stocked up on floaty purple skirts at The Oasis, because (despite the rain today) there is clearly no way I am going to make it through the summer without a good selection of light-weight medieval princess skirts that ripple around my ankles when I walk. I also spent Saturday afternoon reading in dappled shade on a deck-chair in my parents' gloriously beautiful garden while my sister and fiancé (!) planned wedding stuff, my Dad made random observations about the state of the world and my Mum sat in the summer-house. It was a perfect slice of English summer, and I hope there will be more in the same vein over the next couple of months.

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

strange_complex: (Christ Church Mercury)
I am back from Bristol now, and it was great! However, it was so great that I am totally cream-crackered, and not remotely up to doing it justice in a post. So, instead, I am going to rewind to Thursday evening, and a garden party which I attended with Fleur WINOLJ.

The event took place in the Cathedral Gardens in Christ Church: particularly special for us, what with us both being former members of the House. They are reputedly the gardens on which C.S. Lewis (oops!) Lewis Carroll drew for Alice in Wonderland, and are usually out of bounds to mere student scum. Although Fleur had been in them before (to perform as the Queen of Hearts in a play of the same), I never had in my life, so I could very much sympathise with Alice's long quest to get there.

The goal of the evening was to Save Venice by raising lots of lovely money. So we set to work, content in the knowledge that the more we drank, the safer Venice would be. The evening went on until gone midnight (although we decamped from ChCh to Corpus Christi gardens with Fleur's friend Michael around 10ish), and it was so warm I didn't even think of putting my shirt on until gone 11. Along the way, we drank Bellinis, ate strange fennel-flavoured biscuity things, bitched a lot about other people's dress sense, and took these photos:

Fleur and I revisit the old Alma Mater )

Fleur enjoying her Bellini )

Me, communing with nature )

May morning

Monday, 1 May 2006 07:58
strange_complex: (Wicker Man sunset)
We totally made it through the night: me and Spiky Neil playing Worms and Puzzle Bobble, and then [livejournal.com profile] oxfordgirl joining us for the ritual viewing of The Wicker Man, and by then it was 4am and time to start phoning people like [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 and [livejournal.com profile] stompyboots to chivvy them up and out for meeting at the tower.

It rained, but the freshness was perfect, and we walked in clutching sprigs of cherry blossom, me feeling more alive and alert than I think I've ever felt on May morning before, despite having been in such a state of extreme tiredness on Saturday that I was seriously afraid I was about to suffer internal organ failure or something.

And we had the best spot ever, right at the base, and when the Hymnus Eucharisticus rang out, I gazed up through the rain at the impossibly looming tower, held my blossom aloft and felt the hush and the still and the awakening summer all around me, and remembered all the previous times and the powerful magic of the morning and cried softly to think I might never be there again.

And then it was a damp picnic and dancers in the Radcliffe Camera Square, and some guy taking pictures of me and [livejournal.com profile] oxfordgirl laughing and waving our blossoms, and a physical manifestation of Apollo, and champagne and free hot chocolate and giggling at the extreme spaced-outness of [livejournal.com profile] stompyboots, [livejournal.com profile] edling and Cat WINOLJ.

And then it was home, and crash and burn, and my fingers feel like putty now on the keyboard. I think I may possibly need to sleep for a very long time, very, very soon.

But I'm so glad I did it, because I LOVE OXFORD. And it tears my heart to think I must leave it all behind. :(

This post brought to you by sleep deprivation and Piper Heidseick champagne.
strange_complex: (Default)
Whee! May Day is fast approaching, and today was the first truly hot day of the summer: here's to many more like it.

At this time of year, I always find myself going round singing 'Sumer Is Icumen In', and so I post here the splendid Old English lyrics in celebration of my approaching favourite season:

Sumer is icumen in:
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springst the wde nu.

Sing cuccu!

Awe bleteth after lomb,
Llouth after calve cu,
Bulluc sterteh, bucke verteth,
Murie sing cuccu!

Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes thu cuccu,
Ne swik thu naver nu!

If you don't know the tune, you might like to check out this page, which offers midi files of the different elements in the round, plus a translation of the lyrics into modern English.

Ardent students of linguistics may like to note that there is a debate over the precise meaning of the phrase 'bucke verteth'. On the basis of the preceding lines about ewes bleating after lambs and cows cooing after their calves, it's likely that the bullocks and the bucks would be doing something similar to one another: hence the line often gets translated as 'The bullock leaps, the deer capers', or something along those lines. But another distinct possibility is that 'verteth' actually means 'farts'.

I look forward to seeing as many Oxfordy types as possible at the forthcoming May Day celebrations next Saturday morning. I shall definitely be there for the choir-boys at dawn, but may have to renege on my earlier intention to stay up all the Friday night, on the grounds that I have a job interview in Nottingham during the day on Friday, and am likely to be mentally and physically exhausted by the end of the day. I'll see though - maybe I will be so buoyed up by the experience that pulling an all-nighter is no bother? ;-)

In any case, I'm still fully determined to organise delicious picnicky joy for the morning of the 1st (strawberries, sparkly booze, a thermos full of coffee and pain au chocolat are just some of the things I have in mind: further suggestions welcome). Anyone who wants to play picnics, wants to stay up all night and has a good venue in mind for this, or just generally wants to come along to the tower, do let me know so we can all meet up. Anyone who owns a thermos flask and wants to volunteer to fill it with coffee will also be much appreciated.

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