Getting over the ups and downs

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.

Digging trenches for the battle of Hoth.

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 have been getting in touch with my inner self. I make sure to mop up afterwards. And the neighbours asked me to stop doing this outside because the noises I make agitate their pets.

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.

Looking forward to a new dawn! …which will likely be blowing a gale, so keep your hair on.

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…).

Stay tuned!

Magnificent bumps. On the landscape, I mean.
You still haven’t seen the back of me yet.

Girly road trip: Dumbarton rocks?

A couple of years back I went on a day trip with one of my friends to Dumbarton, on the grounds that I hadn’t been there before and I also wanted to get some photos from around the west of Scotland for a change.

I have mastered the single entendre.

I wear my history nerdishness lightly, but I’ve long been interested in Dumbarton Rock, which was the last northern stronghold of the ancient Britons to fall to the Vikings in the eighth century (welcome to my blog; come for the crossdressing, stay for the history!).

It was a good day for it, and we could see for miles all around from Glasgow to Holy Loch and Benmore. It’s easy to see why there’s always been one castle or another here over the centuries (the name comes from Gaelic ‘Dùn Breatann‘, or ‘Fort of the Britons’). It had a garrison of soldiers until World War 2, but now most of it’s a mishmash of fortifications, old storage buildings, and ruins.

Inspired by the Greek myth of Andromeda. And bondage.

Aside from cannons serving purely decorative purposes, there are still mysterious remnants, like large metal rings embedded in the rockface. were they used for ropes to haul ammo and food around? Or flags? Or to anchor things in place? (I found my own uses.)

Flagging a bit in the high winds…

The top of the rock was exposed to high winds blowing off the Atlantic, so I’m glad I had a hair band clasping my wig to my head. Fortunately my friend was a photographer and worked out how to get the best shots…

The only spot on Dumbarton Rock without wind…

We had a short picnic in the sun on one of the battlements and pottered about the surviving buildings. The place works well for a short blast of fresh air and exercise!

Getting carried away?

At this pandemic-y moment in 2022 (in Scotland at least), most of my friends are still wary about travelling and mingling too much, but when things improve, you’d better believe I’ll be posting more travels around the country!
(Edited to add: HOLY SHIT THIS IS MY BLOG’S TENTH ANNIVERSARY POST!)

Dumbarton rocks!

Strange new worlds 3: get tae f…alkirk

Usually my photoshoot trips go without a hitch and I don’t have much to say about them other than where I went and what the scenery was like. The fun ones are when things go wrong somehow, just to add a bit of adventure to the proceedings. Bonus fun comes from being dressed up in a way that can’t be ignored.

I went back to the engineering marvel that is the Falkirk Wheel and the towering sculptures of The Kelpies for some night photos – when they’re lit up, they look like something that’s landed from the planet Zog, so I figured they’d be ideal for another outing in my retro spacesuit.

It turns out they don’t really light this sucker up any more, except for very special occasions. (I’m not special enough.)

It’s been a very long time since the Falkirk Wheel opened, and the whole thing about lighting it up at night doesn’t happen much these days. We didn’t have a tripod with us, so long-exposure photos where I tried to freeze my pose weren’t an option – and using the flash is a great way to bugger up the lighting conditions. I figured if I was going to Photoshop in a space helmet, I may as well go batshit with special effects to hide the washed-out face and crisp shadows.

Yeah, maybe went a bit overboard in Photoshop here…

It took a fair bit of trial and error, and we went exploring on the other side of the upper canal (my torch lit up a fence that I was all set to climb over until I saw a gigantic NOPE of large spiders scuttling about. Instead, we went to the canal tunnel and took some shots avoiding the graffiti on the walls. Anything for a location that looked faintly science-fictiony!

Pretending to be awestruck by a fluorescent light… I should’ve put in some holograms or laser beams or something.

On the way in, the road to the car park was open and accessible. What I hadn’t foreseen was a large, long gate that was now padlocked shut, preventing anyone else from walking about after dark. It now prevented us from leaving. As Admiral Ackbar once put it, “IT’S A TRAP!”

Well… shit.

Fortunately there was a number to call the canal control room in case something had gone wrong. I figured that a transvestite in a silver space suit unable to escape the canal car park counted as something going wrong, and eventually got to speak to a harassed guy with a ton of alarms blaring in the background.

I explained I hadn’t seen the gate and didn’t know it would be locked at 8pm – could someone possibly help, maybe, if it isn’t too much trouble, sorry to interrupt your evening (etc).

“Aye, I can send a manny tae let ye oot, but we’re huvin’ a wee spot ae bother,” said the guy at the other end, “Can ye gie us half an hour?”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“Aye, right enough.”

This is my excited face when I stare at a locked gate for thirty minutes.

The thing about cross-dressing in public is that you have to make yourself immune to feelings of embarrassment. A canal engineer in a high-vis jacket taking time out from his siren-filled office emergency to free the numpties who didn’t drive off when they were supposed to would make most people feel foolish.

Not me.

Not at all.

This is one of two horse-head sculptures that tower over the nearby motorway. It always looks this epic, from any angle.

Consequently we got to the Kelpies car park with not much more than half an hour left until it shut too. There was another car park but I didn’t fancy the long walk; so we had to do a rapid run around the sculptures taking photos, and I had to make quick decisions about what angles might work, and the kind of shots I was after. (Sometimes I can plan it out in advance, sometimes I have to adapt.)

Kelpie statue or borg architecture?

Things were made a lot easier by the epic lighting and the slow phasing of the lights through the spectrum. The only downside was the couple of dozen people still wandering about.

The whole deal about ignoring what other people think of you comes in quite handy when they’re all wrapped up in their warm winter coats and boots, and I’m prancing around in lycra and go-go boots. Maybe they feared my beauty; maybe I scared them off; or maybe they just wanted to get back to their cars and leave before the gate was shut and locked. Who knows?

Epic lighting all caught in camera…

So it was a slightly more eventful evening than I’d planned, but I got the shots I wanted. I just needed to find a spot with some epic lighting and an interesting background and strike a pose for a bit.

Any fool could do that. Surprisingly few fools do!

Strange new worlds 2: morning star

First thing in the morning is a great time for photography for all sorts of reasons. For one thing, there’s the ‘golden hour’ after sunrise when the light is just perfect. For another, there are fewer people around to stare at you prancing about in a silver catsuit.

I’ve written previously about cosplaying as a retro astronaut, and there are a whole bunch of places where I could – with minimal photoshopping – make places in Scotland look like they were on another planet. I’m pretty sure the people who witnessed me wondered what planet I was on, too…

Sometimes the weird shit requires quite a tightly-focused angle. I ventured to Edinburgh’s Sheraton Hotel early on a Saturday morning to twitch my bumcheeks at guests having breakfast, posing beside artistic stone spheres and a hemisphere covered in shiny tiles. (These had seen better days; the trick was to find an angle where the gaps wouldn’t be seen, and to hide the abandoned fencing where posters had been hung to advertise shows during the recently-completed summer Festivals.)

The location in the city centre meant parking the car where I probably shouldn’t (just as well the traffic was light at sunrise on a Saturday morning!) And being in the city centre, it meant pulling on my go-go boots whilst weekend workers ambled past on their way to their workplaces. You can see why I don’t do this sort of thing at rush hour…

Another thing I sometimes have to pay attention to is the tide. (I’ve done this for various swimsuit shoots at Dunbar, for a Baywatch-themed shoot, and at a ruined lido in Fife.) If there’s one thing this has taught me – balancing tides with weather conditions – it’s patience and making the most of whatever you’re presented with.

For the spacey shots, the causeway to Cramond Island in the Firth of Forth resembled – to my feverish, teenage-geek-brain – the ruins of a long lost civilisation. (In reality, anti-submarine defences from the last century.) On this morning, there were a few more people walking about but the tide had only just receded far enough to make the causeway passable, so I had it to myself.

Some mornings you just have to take a chance. When it’s misty or foggy, you might get ‘moody’ or ‘atmospheric’ shots. And by happy chance you might get some epic, backlit clouds. At Arthur’s Seat (also in Edinburgh’s city centre), I got a few mountainous-looking photos in fog lit by the dawn sun. There was one old guy out walking his dog who asked if I was taking these photos for a Festival Fringe show.

I lied and said yes. (I’ve used this lie before.)

Sometimes, if it’s harmless and lets you get on with your day, it’s best to let people believe what they want to believe.

Of course, I’ve done a bunch of night-time photoshoots too (but that’s something for a whole ‘nother blog!)…

This is actually right outside a hotel’s breakfast room…
Pew! Pew!
Minimal photoshopping required…
Some days you get lucky with the view…
A water treatment plant. The smile is forced.

Swimsuit edition II: boobwatch

Before the pandemic lockdowns got in the way, I’d started going swimming again for the first time in… bloody hell, a couple of decades. Part of this was to get in better tone/condition and improve my breathing, but a lot of it was to do with losing flab and firming up my fortysomething body (it’s not the years; it’s the mileage…)

Eventually I got to the point where I thought what the hell; maybe I could revisit one of my old photoshoots and re-do some sunrise beach swimsuit photos? The trouble is, it depends on getting the right conditions. If the tide’s too high, then it’s trickier to get a good angle with both me and the sun in shot. Too misty or hazy, and I’ll be lost in the glare of the light. Too cloudy and it’ll look like a grey day on the North Sea, and not ‘it looks kind of tropical’.

This is Dunbar, Scotland. We can pretend it’s warm.

My beach of choice is at Dunbar, because it’s not too far from home, it’s nice and big (so easy to keep your distance from any others who might be foolish enough to be there at that time), and you can get the sunrise without any obvious markers of where you are (such as Fife, or Bass Rock). With nothing but sand, sea, and sun it could be anywhere.

I had a couple of false starts: one morning when there were no clouds over Edinburgh, but plenty nestled on the horizon blocking the golden glow I was after; and one when a rapidly-moving cloud front took over the sky as we drove out. This was the middle of summer, when sunrise is before 5am, so it wasn’t something I wanted to waste time on too much (those mornings, we returned to the city and I changed costume to do other shoots instead). It’s not great wasting a long, early-morning journey like that, let alone twice!

Some people stannnnnnd in the darkness, afraid to step intoooo the light…

Third time was perfect: not too hazy, just enough cloud to give the sky some texture, and a sea that was just about lively enough to be interesting, but not dangerous. I’d already picked my theme: I got a red swimsuit and an inflatable Baywatch-style float, and a couple of party balloons for tits (I didn’t want to accidentally dip my usual falsies in the sea; I’d already done that in a freshwater loch…)

(I gave Baywatch a go on Amazon Prime for nostalgia. I was astounded that the first season was a proper action-drama which I remembered nothing about; the second more of the same but with more slow-mo music sequences of pert Californians; and then the balance shifted further and further.)

Fucking freezing.

The dumb thing I did was to stick the inflated balloons under my swimsuit while I was driving out to the beach. The seatbelt had forced the air out of one of them, making me seriously lopsided, and I’d forgotten to bring any spares (having wasted a few on the earlier, aborted attempts).

But dammit, the weather and sea conditions were too good to waste, so I’d just have to work around it (lucky I had that float to hide with!). I suppose I should be glad they didn’t whistle as they deflated…

Whatever you do in life, feel epic doing it.

Another major change from the first set of beach photos was that this time I had a much better camera to work with. I could run up and down through the waves for action shots, and each droplet of water would be captured, crisp and perfect. Because that’s what I want people to look at, obviously…

Shit! I’m late for my bus!

I ventured a bit deeper into the water this time, but there’s a balance I wanted to get between striking a pose for the camera, and actually looking like I was swimming about. In the end, processing my way through the hundreds of photos we got, I found the best results came from running in the water, no deeper than mid-upper thighs (I was also wary of getting knocked down by the waves)…

(Waves hello)

I should also point out that I can see the appeal of cold-water swimming that people might indulge in. Once you get used to it, it’s “not too bad“, but it’s the situation that makes a difference: having a whole beach to ourselves; watching a sunrise; getting a sorta-kinda workout; and getting a record of your batshit start to the day. Bring a flask of tea – you’ll need it!

In which I rush to save a jellyfish from drowning.

If that doesn’t convince you, I’ll point out that seawater’s a great exfoliator. The battlefield of ingrown hairs all over my legs cleared up no end (shame the effect didn’t last)!

Not sure it did the balloons any good, mind you – by the time I emerged from the water, one boob had completely deflated, and the other was shrivelling up as well. At least I could stop worrying about them…

This pose comes courtesy of my left foot sinking ankle-deep in wet sand.

Of course I haven’t had a chance to return to the pool during lockdown, and I’ve got a few kilos of belly flab I want to shift. I mean, I could go to the beach for a proper swim, but I’d want to feel good about myself before I put on that swimsuit again!