Girly road trip 5: Getting old rocks!

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!

Why yes, my pasty arms and legs *did* get burnt to fuck.

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.

Getting my rocks off…

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.

Every time I go somewhere with a cannon I must mount it suggestively IT IS THE LAW

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.

Eat your heart out, Laura Dern…

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:

  • rakish “Harrison Ford circa 1980”
  • Frodo Baggins
  • washed-up 1970s rock singer
  • currently at Will Turner in Pirates of the Carribean length (“Ugh! Ponytail!”)
  • 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.”

“The sun has got his hat on…” (I take my hat off to him.)

Feelin’ hot, hot, hot…

In summer 2019 I had a deep need to dress up and take a bunch of new photos for the first time in far too long. The trouble is, a lot of my older clothes were falling to bits. The four-inch-heeled boots a friend had passed on to me were crumbling away (I think they were old enough to vote by that point…) and I had to get new versions of old outfits.

My attempt at updating my wardrobe ended up looking more like a trip to Torture Garden than being a secret agent…

Those crumbling boots were bloody awkward and I only ever wore them with my old fancy dress catsuit. Time to get new boots! The boots I ended up getting were gloriously cheap PVC with more manageable three inch heels. Trouble is, they were incredibly shiny and didn’t fit the catsuit. So I then got a gloriously cheap PVC catsuit to match them. The end result was like a happy, shiny version of Black Widow.

Nothing phallic about that tank at all. No, sirree.

My search for locations I hadn’t used before took me to the former mining town of Prestonpans where the Prestongrange outdoor museum contains the rusting relics of Scotland’s industrial past. The last time I’d been there it was barren and muddy and looked like the sort of ruins where Wonder Woman fought World War One. It had become quite overgrown and lush in the meantime, as nature slowly reclaimed the area. Some exhibits were so fragile they’d been fenced off, limiting the opportunity for atmospheric photos with a hint of danger to them.

*Heroic music swells* *like my chest*

Fortunately one of my friends is an accomplished photographer, and was able to find good props and figure out the best angles for epic photos. It didn’t matter that it was a fantastically sunny day instead of the usual, moody clouds. We made it work.

It was my first time in far too long wearing something so… attention-grabbing. I’m damn glad I had a photographer with me, or I’d look like some sort of weirdo or pervert with an industrial history fetish. Who else visits the mining museum, you ask? Well: retirees. And elderly dog walkers. I didn’t want them to freak out, so I bade them a cheery ‘good afternoon!’ like nothing was out of the ordinary. Maybe I didn’t speak loudly or clearly enough, because they just stared. Oh well.

Shiny – let’s be bad guys.

The downside of taking photos on the hottest, sunniest day in years, is that it’s not the best weather for wearing PVC. There is no ventilation, and nowhere for all the gallons of sweat to drain away. It looked slick and shiny on the outside, and it felt slick and shiny on the inside. My fake tits went akimbo. The 70% of water that my body usually consists of ended up between my skin and the costume.

But none of that mattered. I’d been watching my diet and exercising more and I finally had a chance to show off. I trusted my photographer to find my best angles. The torrent of sweat that poured out back home when I peeled the damn thing off was worth it!

I was so hungry I started eating my clothes from the other end.

Of course, writing this at the end of 2020 after months of lockdown and comfort eating, I look at these photos and realise I’ve got a bit of an uphill battle to get back into shape. That’s what 2021 will be for!

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.

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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.

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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.