How did I get halfway through the year already??? And what happened to all those blog posts I had planned?
I can answer the second question straight away: they’re on their way. As for the first part… I guess I just got distracted by life in general. I don’t post about my life in non-Twist mode (not relevant to the blog, at least as I intend it), but sometimes the non-Twist stuff needs to be attended before I can go off on more adventures.
For one thing, I’ve got a garden now, and I’ve been learning about Zen And The Fine Art Of Murdering Plants the hard way. So that’s a happy distraction.
I’ve also been spending a good chunk of the year losing my lockdown flab (again).
I was sick of being out of breath, tired, and feeling like a sack of potatoes. So I renewed my acquaintance with the swimming pool and have been jumping into the granny lane at 5.30am twice a week. I’ve also been having regular pre-breakfast walkabouts before the city wakes up – kind of like Batman on patrol, minus the whole beating-up-clowns-at-night thing, and swapping the cape for running shoes. (So, nothing at all like Batman.)
I’ve reached the point where I’m Twist-shaped once more (and probably fitter than I was fifteen years ago; now there’s a statement that screams “mid-life crisis”). I have no idea what adventures I want to go on this year, so I’ll just take things as they come.
Meanwhile, I have plenty to share from last year, and I’ve finally selected which pictures to use (sometimes I have something to say, and choose how to illustrate it afterwards; other times I have a bunch of photos and then work out what stories they tell…).
Now that more of us are getting fully vaccinated, the small pocket of the world I’m living in is opening up a bit more (at least, In July 2021; nothing is guaranteed these days!). For the first time in far, far too long, I’ve been on a road trip with friends.
Everyone I know has had their own heavy shit to deal with, on top of living through a pandemic: jobs; income; living situation; giving or receiving care; bereavement. It’s been constant disruption and ongoing feeling of impermanence about everything. (I went through a lot of disruption a couple of years back; in some ways, it helped prepare me emotionally for life in the age of Covid.)
So when I had the chance to go on a fossil-hunting girly road trip, you’re damn right I took it!
We went to Eyemouth to potter about the beach and cliffs and have a picnic in the sun and try to ignore the noise of young families playing on the sand (because nothing wrecks a day out like the sound of small children enjoying themselves, am I right? No? Just me? Okay then, moving on…).
I wasn’t sure what my fossil-hunting outfit should be, so I raided my wardrobe’s recesses for stuff I haven’t worn much (but can still fit into), which had a summery, casual vibe. My pallid legs are a goddamn battlefield of ingrown hairs, but there wasn’t much I could do about that.
Eyemouth is next door to St Abbs (where I visited on a girly road trip before). It’s pretty small: an old fishing village with a harbour, an abandoned fort, and a museum. It can make for a pleasant place to stop by and take in the views from the clifftops.
Further back up the coast, at Barns Ness lighthouse by Dunbar, is a geologist’s wonderland of ancient rocks, layered and eroded by time. These rocks were last on the surface about 300-350 million years ago (give or take, but what’s a few million years between friends?). My travelling companions knew what to look for and pointed out the fossils that could be found here.
Forget trilobites and ammonites; forget mundane Tyrannosaur footprints or Liopleurodon bones – this is the opening of the gates to Carboniferous Park! [cue John Williams music] What you can find here are trace fossils – the remnants of trails made by tiny slithering things in ancient mud. And maybe imprints left behind by shells. But you know what, sod it: I found my own fossils and had a great day out with friends.
Catching up with people again after we’d all been frozen in social carbonite during lockdown was a funny experience: we’d all grown a bit older, but the time apart hadn’t changed the friendships and we had a great time catching up.
In 2021, I think I’m less bothered about things than I used to be. Maybe it’s an age thing; maybe it’s a result of the times we’re living through.
I’ve started growing my hair out (complete with funky grey streaks, like I’m about to fight in the Thunderdome). Partly because I’ve never had long hair and I want to see what it’s like (before it inevitably thins out and leaves my scalp looking like a cue ball); but also because just as I’m getting older, so’s my Twist stuff. The wig is starting to come apart a little bit more each time I take it out (I’ve had it since 2009!), and it might not be too long before I have to go out in Twist mode with my natural hair (I’m gonna dye that sucker; don’t expect to see Twist as a little old lady with grey hair any time soon!).
My workmates on video meetings have seen me grow my hair through various stages:
give it a few months and it’ll be interchangeable between boy mode and girl mode
if I get to 1980s-hair-metal-band length, I will have acheived my final form and will sing the song that ends the world (which could be any song, given my singing voice…)
Video meetings are also great because during the heatwave I’ve been able to work in my baking hot room in a skirt and nobody’s been any the wiser (or, in colder months, sporty leggings and pink hoodie). I don’t think I’d’ve had the confidence to do any of that when I was younger. I guess age helps me adopt a more laid-back attitude – a better perspective on what matters, what doesn’t, and when to just go with your sense of whimsy.
I’m slowly and steadily shedding my lockdown flab. I’m fully vaccinated. I’m making plans to go on more day trips and picnics with people. I have a garden with a firepit, and I’ve had friends around for food, drink, and toasted marshmallows. Everyone who’s important in my life is still in it. I’m going to carry on switching into ‘Twist mode’. Looking at what I’ve got, instead of what I might be missing, I can’t complain!
Where things go from here is anybody’s guess, but I’ve got a pretty decent starting point. I’m a 44-year-old guy and I reckon I’m having the bestest midlife crisis ever.
As David Bowie put it: “Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.”
Cosplaying as a character you created yourself sounds like it should be easy, but there’s always going to be some major detail that buggers everything up.
A couple of years back I spent an inordinate amount of time doing sketches of a 60’s-style space adventure with cigar-shaped rocket ships and, yes, a space babe and her crew, all in shiny silver space suits. It got to the point where I got heartily sick of drawing buttocks, but damn it, I thought they looked kinda cool (the characters I mean; although the botties weren’t half bad either). Fuck it, I thought, I want to do a photoshoot like this!
Fortunately, most of the outfit can be bought dirt cheap from Ebay or Amazon with relatively few adjustments. As long as you expect a shiny silver catsuit from China to be completely the wrong size, most of it’s pretty easy to acquire (sometimes from the weirdest places – like a pub in England with a surplus of novelty ketchup bottles…).
The only part which eluded me was the goldfish-bowl space helmet. Actual goldfish bowls were either too small or too heavy, and in either case I didn’t fancy balancing one on my head. Other options were too expensive, and making a custom-fit, lightweight version myself was beyond my skills. So I decided to Photoshop it in, instead (and hope I didn’t take photos on windy days…)
The next issue was finding locations to take all these damn photos. I had ideas – oh, you’d better believe I had ideas! – and ended up with more locations than I could possibly talk about in this blog entry alone (more in future months, I promise). Having already travelled the length of Scotland from the border to John O’Groats, anything was possible. I figured out road routes that would give me as many locations in as few journeys as possible. I scoured Google Earth for places that mixed the familiar with the obscure, and sketched out rough ideas for different shots.
I had a route planned that would start at silly o’clock in the morning, and get me to Aberdeen at sunrise. All I needed to do was keep an eye on the weather and hope the skies wouldn’t sabotage the journey. Weather forecasts are only reliable up to a point, and then you just have to rely on luck, and accept whatever shots you can get.
We went to bed not long after dinner, and woke not long after midnight. Batshit crazy? It meant I could slap on my makeup and the spray-on silver catsuit, and drive to Dundee by 3am. Yes; utterly batshit crazy.
My main interest in Dundee was the recently-opened V&A art gallery on the edge of the river Tay. Happily, being there at 3am meant there was nobody around to ask drunken questions, or dive into the shots, or just spoil things. At that time, the only interest was from the night guard (I swear, I must’ve given a handful of night guards some weird shit to contend with on their CCTV screens over the years…). We wandered around the funky modern architecture as long as our schedule allowed before moving on again…
The next stop was Balmedie beach. I’d been here a few times when I was a kid, so I knew it had vast expanses of sand that could double as a desert planet, grassy dunes, freshwater streams choked with greenery making their way to the beach, and best of all, an epic windfarm which annoys the shit out of Donald Trump.
As we approached Aberdeen I saw a massive bank of cloud hanging over the northern skies, and I had a nasty feeling they’d block out the sunrise. To my immense relief, we got about ten minutes’ sunshine as the sun broke the horizon, and made as much use of it as we could. Sunrise was the only limitation on the schedule; after that we could take our time at the remainder of the locations.
The next stop was a stone circle at Daviot, in the middle of… well, nowhere. Grampian region is pretty sparse, and the country roads are choked with roadkill rabbits, like a Beatrix Potter version of Schindler’s List. God, it’s grim.
For the purposes of the photoshoot, I figured the stone circle, surrounded by trees, might give a Stargate-y vibe (in that series, they gave themselves an excuse for why every planet they visited resembled a Canadian forest…). I had a bash at recreating one of my sketches which was easier said than done. First I had to scamper over sharp, loose rocks in high-heeled go go boots, and then try holding that ridiculous pose for ages (taking breaks to see how they looked on the camera, and then going back to readjust).
So yeah, seemingly minor locations can take a while to complete…
The final stop was an abandoned 1930s lido at Tarlair on Grampian’s northern coast. It’s still intact, but clearly it’s been decades since its hey-day. It’s set among cliffs and rock arches that make for an otherworldly appearance.
When we arrived there was a single guy running laps around the area, and doing chin-ups and exercises (I guess there isn’t much else to do first thing on a Sunday morning here). We found it easy to keep him out of the shots, but he was clearly interested in what we were doing and dying to speak to us… but keeping a respectful distance.
There were tons of different shots we could take there (it’s been difficult whittling it down to only the best of the best; the location looks good at any angle), but eventually we realised that it was time to head back south. I changed back into a more ordinary dress and shoes, and when we were about to head off the exercise guy walked by.
“Don’t get many space girls landing in Banff!” he said. He’d been dying to say that for ages, poor sod. I gave him a cheesy grin and pretended to laugh silently because I knew if I said anything my voice would just wreck his whole morning.
We stopped off to tank up the car, and a bunch of retired and well-fed old men were gathered in the petrol station shop to buy their morning papers and catch up on everything that wasn’t happening in the area. Obviously, me walking in with my makeup and retro hair was a sight they don’t get that often, so they all clammed up and stared silently as I paid and left in less than sixty seconds. Was it creepy? Or did they realise I was a guy in a dress? Honestly, I didn’t give a shit what they thought – which is pretty much the only superpower you need to crossdress.
And with that, I had a batch of photos I could photoshop with my space helmet… and maybe add a few details to, like planets and frickin’ laser beams.
Last year, (which seems about a decade ago already… hell, February seems like a decade ago), when we could still freely travel and generally enjoy ourselves, I took another couple of car-less friends on a road trip; this time we headed to a country park in West Lothian.
Jupiter Artland contains a load of art and sculpture installations on the pathways around a large private house. It’s trippy as hell.
Among the early artworks you encounter is a wood full of creepy girl statues. Each and every one is posed to look distraught or distressed. Naturally, I had to subvert this as much as possible…
I tried laughing therapy with a distraught girl. It didn’t work. (Doesn’t matter – had a good laugh anyway.)
You can pick up a map of the paths, after you pay and get a sticker to reassure people you’ve been past the till. Honestly, it’s more fun exploring and getting that thrill of discovery. The map’s more use for finding out what each exhibit is called (come on, this is art – it’ll mean more to the artists than those looking at it!).
My body is a temple; it’s open on Sundays OH SHIT I DID NOT SAY THAT
The exhibits are varied: a funnel in the ground surrounded by a cage, or a classical looking bust, or a miniature temple can mingle with an empty house with a bare, uneven rock floor, or an outsized rifle leaning against the trees.
TRIGGER WARNING: You have to cock it before use. (The gun, I mean.)
Eventually you emerge into an open section of sculpted grounds and ponds with swans, where families with kids run about and you can have fun pretending to push your friends into the water. You can make people blink by wearing a short dress and climbing up the sculptured embankments, or by wearing a black heavy metal t-shirt to provide a complete contrast to the scenery. I bloody love going out with my friends. 🙂
Pause and reflect for a bit?
This is where the driveway from the entrance winds it way through, and by now you’re only halfway through. Jupiter Artland is huge.
There are more forested paths to walk along, with exhibits such as spiderwebs, or a boathouse filled with bottled riverwater from around Scotland, or a pit lined with expensive purple crystals (actually obsidian glass – monitored by CCTV), or an open-air church-kinda-thing (the perfect spot to take romantic pictures of your travelling companions!)…
Being in a country park, you can expect a whole load of wildflowers. The best time to go is late spring or summer when everything’s in bloom.
I colour co-ordinate with nature. Muthafuckaz.
The walkabout finishes next to the main buildings, including a dovecot and a garden house painted the colour of Scotland’s other national drink, Irn Bru.
You have to be very rich to own a mansion you can paint the colour of Irn Bru…
Inside this orange building is another art installation which changes every so often. On a previous visit the floor was filled with stacks of plastic cups arranged to resemble waves or sand dunes or something. On our visit, it was a … bunch of random shit thrown together to look like a tree. I think. Hell, it’s ahhhhhhht, dahlings, and what do I know about that?
This is a work of art! And so’s that shit behind me.