Girly road trip 2: by Jupiter!

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…

Jupiter Artland: creepy girl

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!).

Jupiter Artland: temple

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.

Jupiter Artland: triggered

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. 🙂

Jupiter Artland: reflection

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!)…

Jupiter Artland: church

Imagine…

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.

Jupiter Artland: flowers

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.

Jupiter Artland: orange

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?

Jupiter Artland: art WTF

This is a work of art! And so’s that shit behind me.

 

Girly Road Trip! 1: a stab at St Abbs

Last year I offered to take a few friends for a girly day out to a couple of places which featured in recent film series: St Abbs and Alnwick Castle.

I’d been feeling the need for something different; it had been many months since my last outing as Twist, and many months since the one before that. I needed to add a bit more colour and interest to life. I wanted to make another calendar to hand out to my various friends for Christmas – all I asked was that they helped take photos.

Having a stab at St Abbs

A stab at St Abbs…

After being given my sole instruction for the trip (“Don’t kill us”), our first stop was St Abbs, on the south-east coast of Scotland. This tiny fishing village was a location in the Marvel films, doubling as New Asgard (the nearby cliffs were used for dialogue scenes in Thor: Ragnorok, perhaps foreshadowing the concluding Avengers double bill.)

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There are signs dotted about proclaiming ‘ST ABBS – Twinned with NEW ASGARD’. The staff at the tourist office there instantly pegged us as nerds and gave us a portable sign to cart about to scenic spots for selfies (“Hey look! It’s Thor’s house where he plays games with Korg and drinks Irn Bru and Innes & Gunn!”). I’m reliably informed a rare virtual Pokemon thingy can be snapped in the waters near the harbour, where we perched on a sea wall for a picnic lunch.

There isn’t a hell of a lot more to the place, and rather than potter along the cliffs, we had to continue with our journey for a different kind of Potter…

Alnwick Castle

The Hogwarts sorting hat couldn’t decide about me…

Alnwick Castle in the north-east of England, doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. And boy, do they milk that association for all it’s worth (without infringing copyright, of course…). If you are so minded, you can clench a broom stick between your legs and waddle up and down the courtyard whilst being screamed at by tour guide dressed as a wizard; this is surprisingly popular. (The girly road trippers decided unanimously against it.)

Alnwick Castle chair

In which I bring a touch of Rocky Horror to Hogwarts…

Aside from the Potter-esque references, the castle tourism department makes the most of its history, with dressing up in mediaeval costumes and other activities on offer. So we went nuts dressing up for social media photos. I attempted a ‘slutty knight’ look with a cape thrown over one shoulder and showing a bit of leg.

Next to us a family were doing the same, and a small girl was trying to persuade her dad to dress up as a princess like her.

“You get used to dressing up as a girl,” I told him (this made mum and daughter smile).

Leaping from the page

Turning over a new leaf?

You can see why the castle was chosen as a location: it has all sorts of little nooks and corners next to the sort of open spaces you’d need to accommodate a film crew. Overall, though, its current tourist theme seems to be book-related; all the signs and maps and info boards are in the shape of oversized book sculptures.

Alnwick is also home to a gigantic second-hand book shop in the former railway buildings. We popped in afterwards for a browse and a bite to eat in the cafe. For book nerds, this place is like Wonkaland. There might be another girly road trip just to return to it…

Showing a bit of spine

I’m a big book fan.

On the way back home, we stopped at the Scottish border for one last photo set (I’d been making clothing changes throughout the trip for different calendar months).

As a first big outing, it was great fun – and I’ve got a whole load more girly day trips to write about (and yet more planned for the future – stay tuned!).

Subtle Scottishness

I colour-match the Scottish border.

Little Wonder

Last year I got a bit swept up in the Wonder Woman mania, and figured I’d have a stab at doing some cosplay for a friend’s birthday party. The costume I got was… cheap. But I intended to modify it and customise it and hopefully make it look a little closer to Gil Gadot’s outfit.

First order of business was to see how the thing looked, and how much work I had ahead of me. It wasn’t completely awful; it was just… a bit too shiny and lacking detail. With a couple of cans of spray-paint (maroon and gold), black marker pens, dirt cheap heels, coloured cardboard, plastic wrap and sandpaper, I would remake the damn thing, and make it look… uh, better. Maybe.

I’d also need to figure out how to cut out all the cardboard layers to make the chest-piece, belt and headband. This was a problem-solving exercise in drafting and actually more fun than it sounds.

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This is what I started with; I then channeled my inner ‘A-Team’ and got practical with it…

What did I think of the film? I liked it. I’m not really into superheroes, and the deadly seriousness of the DC lot put me off Batman or Superman. I needed something different, and Wonder Woman provided it. Sure, there’s some stuff I wish had been done better: it peaks too soon – the Crowning Moment Of Awesomeness is when Wonder Woman walks out alone into No Man’s Land (but of course) between the trenches amid a blaze of machine gun fire and an equally blazing electric cello riff; nothing in the latter half of the film comes even close to matching this moment. It’s also too easy to figure out who the real villain is early on; and the ending boss battle is just empty special effects – if they’d brought back some element from the start of the *plot* that had a purpose at the end, it would’ve been stronger (yes, I’m very demanding about the films I watch!).

Having said that, the cello riff is my new earworm, and whenever I hear it I feel like a big damn hero; I like films that show me stuff I’ve never seen before, and the first 20 minutes do this without needing any special effects; and that costume bloody rocks.

blogimagery95-WonderWomanCostume

It’s amazing what you can do with cardboard, plastic wrap and sandpaper (and a bit of dark chalk for weathering effects)…

Anyway, after a few weeks, I had the costume ready at last. I’d already fielded questions from curious neighbours when I was spray-painting outdoors, but there’s nothing like going out in public to properly field-test these things…

On the night of the party, I got myself kitted out and drove out from the city. It was Friday evening. Most people were going home from work. There were traffic jams. And if there’s one thing people didn’t expect, it was to find Wonder Woman stuck in a jam next to them.

It’s a damn good thing I don’t mind attention. Especially when it’s half a dozen schoolkids in the back row of the bus in front, all waving at me and taking photos on their phones. I waved back.

blog-gallery217-WonderWomanparty

At the party, the birthday girl was the only one I knew. Fortunately, there were others in costume too: Emperor Ming from Flash Gordon; Dangermouse; Adventure Time; Thor; Supergirl… and everyone else turned up dressed as themselves.  The costume brigade occupied one table, like an oasis of YO CHECK THIS OUT among so many party frocks.

The party was bloody good fun, but sadly the costume didn’t survive a trip to the toilet. The zip up the side split like a pop group, and after a few awkward minutes in which the birthday girl found some safety pins for me, I spent the rest of the party moving cautiously. Having a shield came in handy.

*

I had intended to have a second go at Edinburgh Comic Con this year (having previously turned up as Lara Croft) – but I fear the costume broke beyond my ability to fix it – not just the zip, but the inflexible cardboard, and seams on the leg pieces. I’m also beginning to wonder (hah!) if the moment has passed? Wonder Woman‘s impact might have been lessened by her appearance in Justice League (and maybe also in the aftermath of Marvel’s Black Panther?).

There’s also an element of being “Not Twist” – in other costumes, I’m obviously Twist-dressed-as-someone, but as ‘Wonder Woman’, I have to be someone else. And somehow, it feels like quite a responsibility portraying a character like that. It’s not the sort of thing I’d want to fuck up – certainly not by parading about in a broken, torn, patched-up costume.

So I think that party was my only appearance as Wonder Woman. Somehow, that makes it feel more valuable.

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When in doubt, add lens flares.

Fife, the universe, and everything

The longest photo session I ever did took nearly nine hours. I think I should make a note of just how much effort went into it – not for my sake, but to recognise the infinite patience of my photographer/wife.

Sunny pool

Things to do on a summer holiday…

I had figured out a route that would let me get some sunrise shots in an outdoor swimming pool with weird rock formations around it, a small picturesque fishing village, the ancient university town of St Andrews, and a scenic coastal railway station. I could bring changes of costume for each location, and get all this done by breakfast (or so I thought…)

First, I had to set the alarm for 2am. we spent an hour getting ready (me putting on makeup, she getting a thermos for hot drinks and snack bars for the next few hours).

Then I had to drive through the city centre dodging drunken students at 3am, when it turned out that my usual route out was blocked off by a labyrinth of bollards (the city’s transport chiefs love to mess around with car drivers) and further on at a bridge, by a police van with strobes (I assumed someone was having A Very Bad Night, either on the bridge or not long off it, but apparently nobody was hurt). We finally escaped town about an hour later than intended thanks to some hasty re-navigation. It then turned out that our destination -the Kingdom Of Fife– had turned into a massive 20mph zone.

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So by the time we got to Cellardyke tidal pool, it was over 30 minutes after sunrise and about five minutes off the maximum high tide. The pool was completely submerged. Well, shit.

Going downhill in Crail...

You get used to cobbles. Eventually.

Cottages

Dainty, isn’t it? (The village, I mean…)

A bit of colour

Some people live in great-looking little houses.

Instead, we went up the road to the tiny fishing village of Crail, where I found a quiet corner to change dresses and into my heels.

Crail

Early morning at a quiet little harbour…

Harbouring a secret desire?

Uh, just realised there’s a boat with ‘KY’ right next to my backside; you shouldn’t read anything into this.

On the up-side, there was nobody about, apart from a Japanese tourist taking photos, and a guy in the harbour sorting out his boat. No problem! The sun was over the horizon and the light was good.

St Andrews Cathedral

It was like that when I got there…

In at the deep Pend?

Fancy visiting The Pends? It Depends.

After that, to save me constantly changing in and out of my heels, her ladyship drove us further up the coast to St Andrews. For the sake of helping to differentiate each scene, I wore different coloured tops and belts over the dress. I did try changing the dress in the car, but ended up giving a trio of male students heading home a bit of a show. Being St Andrews students, they were too polite to catcall, point, or stare for longer than thirty seconds (I think they managed about twenty).

If I move away, the pillar falls over.

If I move away, the pillar falls over.

This is where princes and princesses learn stuff and shiz...

This is where princes and princesses learn stuff and shiz.

...in which I pretend to be clever...

…in which I pretend to be clever…

We got there before 6am, taking in photos of the cathedral and the Pends, the university (where any security guards would’ve gotten a weird show from all the cameras around St Salvator’s Quad), and the golf course… where two SUVs containing a group of gigantic US golfers with bad dress sense jumped out to take photos of themselves right at the spot we were hoping to go. Dammit.

So I photobombed them.

St Andrews Golf Club

For swingers?

My only regret is not seeing the looks on their faces when they saw what I was doing right behind them. Sadly, most of the view was taken up with stands for The Open. If I gave even a mouse-sized shit about golf, I’d’ve realised this beforehand… but at least the early morning skies were spectacular. Incidentally, until 2014 the Golf Club was men only. If it still was, I could really have fucked things up for them.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

We then drove back to Cellardyke, where the tide had lowered enough to reveal the pool. I’d been unable in my researches to find out how deep it was, and I had a choice of a decrepit paddling pool, or the larger pool where I couldn’t see the bottom.

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The water was lovely.

I went for the paddling pool, going barefoot on smashed up 1930s concrete and seaweed. It was filled with a load of sea flora and small fauna (I hoped it wasn’t being filled with sewage or anything – it was manky enough as it was!).

Paddling pool

This pool was ancient, decrepit, manky, and full of sea critters. The smile is fake.

Poolside seat

Trying very hard not to fall backwards into the sea…

Lido

You can swim in it too (if you dare)…

By this time it was about 7.30am, and instead of having the place to ourselves (nice and quiet and private), I was being watched by joggers and dog-walkers and people from the nearby caravan site fetching supplies.

This pool has spent about 80 years getting smashed to bollocks by the North Sea.

This pool has spent about 80 years getting smashed to bollocks by the North Sea.

One of them was an old man walking his dog. He sat on a bench and took in the Twist swimsuit show (which began with my beloved photographer saying, “Well, we’re here now. Come on, strip, motherfucker!”).

I bet that gull had a great view.

I bet that gull had a great view.

I struck every classic swimsuit pose I could think of, as best as I could. If only the old guy knew he wasn’t looking at who he thought he was looking at. Still, he had a big, wide, happy smile on his face. And when I say smile, I mean leer. He was clearly having the best start to his day he’d had in years.

Been seen to lean by a keen teen in jeans means I'm unclean?

Been seen to lean by a keen teen in jeans means I’m unclean?

It was getting busier, and more people were stopping to watch: TIME TO GTFO.

I made damn well sure to find a spot hidden by the sea wall where I could get changed out of my swimsuit… into a shiny little black dress. Regular readers will have realised by now that I’m not averse to standing out from the crowd. I can only assume that the caravan park crowd thought I was doing a walk of shame or something.

You'll notice I'm kneeling in a paddling pool; there's no way I was jumping into the one behind me.

You’ll notice I’m kneeling in a paddling pool; there’s no way I was jumping into the one behind me.

We went for one last shoot at Aberdour railway station, this time watched only by Scotrail’s security cameras and a middle-aged couple waiting.

Stationary at the station

I’m amazed I could squeeze into this dress…

LBD, platform, heels...

I’m trying to ignore the middle-aged couple staring at me…

I should point out that we still hadn’t had breakfast. Her ladyship was in dire need of coffee. I drove us back to Edinburgh, utterly exhausted.

I'm blue dab-a-dee Aberdour, dab-a-dee Aberdour...

I’m blue dab-a-dee Aberdour, dab-a-dee Aberdour…

My lack of peripheral vision from the wig only caused one near-RTA (thankfully the other driver was happy to let me know with generous application of their horn).

Platform

You just stick your thumb and and hitch a ride – that’s how trains work, isn’t it?

By the time we got back home, it was getting on for 10.30am. That’s eight and a half hours, people! THIS is why I love my wife to bits: there’s nobody else I’d go on adventures with! 🙂

Be of good cheer!

Want an excuse to cross-dress in public? Make a deal, bet, or dare with someone!

blogimagery91-i-lost-a-bet

I lost a bet, all right?

I did this with my writing group as part of National Novel-Writing Month one November. A fellow writer bet that she could write 50,000 words before I did, and I bet that I could write 50,000 words before any of the first-timers in our group. We both lost. Her forfeit was to wear one of my garish Hawai’ian shirts to the end-of-month party; mine was to attend wearing her old cheerleader skirt from her university days. She even gave me her pom-poms.

The thing she didn’t like was the fact that I could fit into the skirt and she hadn’t worn it in years. The thing I didn’t like was the fact that it was the end of November and the worst winter we’d had in decades – not ideal conditions to be prancing about town dressed as a cheerleader. Our venue had to shut early, so we scouted around for another. We ended up in a sports bar. It was the night of some big football match. This was definitely not an ideal place to be dressed as a cheerleader. Especially at a table full of fellow nerds sipping soft drinks and typing stories into their laptops.

Yes, I got stared at. Yes, I freaked out a couple of guys who were staring at me a little bit too long before I said in my chirpy, bloke-ish voice, “Can I help you?” And yes, I was bloody freezing. But dammit, it was fun.

I'd never make it in a team.

I’d never make it in a team.

A couple of years later I asked to borrow the cheerleader stuff again for an early-morning autumn photoshoot. I got a few pictures in a sports field (with only sunrise dogwalkers to wonder what the hell was going on), but –meh– they just seemed too ordinary. I don’t like being ordinary!

Reasons to be cheerful?

Reasons to be cheerful?

Instead, I went the pop-culture route. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a cheerleader, wasn’t she? And, handily enough, there was a sizeable Victorian-era graveyard nearby, overgrown and covered in autumn leaves. Perfect!

Creepy steps

I live in a city with a multitude of creepy, overgrown graveyards.

It’s a weird feeling going around a graveyard in a cheerleader outfit. I don’t have any religious sensibilities, and I don’t really get the concept of ‘desecration’; in any case, I was just walking around looking for striking scenery to pose in. The graves themselves held no interest to me other than as background ornamentation.

Buffy in undergrowth

Mucking about in the undergrowth…

Even so, I did wonder what I’d say to anyone who happened to be walking past. I wanted photos that looked incongruous when taken at face value, yet fit in with Buffy-style tropes.

Vampire Slayer

October is a time of grave concern…

On the other hand, who’s going to wander around a graveyard at silly-o’clock in the morning? There was nobody else there. It was as quiet as the grave…

Buffy: gravestones

Cheerleader Buffy doing a 3-point-landing in a graveyard. I don’t know how much more epic I can be for you people.