Category Archives: traditions

Too old to tattoo ?

One thing that I keep hearing is ‘thing you shouldn’t do when you are XXXXX….’ you are always, too old, to big, to small, too talk, too male.. too female.

On my way into work this morning, I was thinking about a tattoo that I have wanted to get done for the longest time. I can’t afford it. I can’t justify it. I just. Can’t. It is a lot of money, not saying that it isn’t worth it, and I would want to get it done well.

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However, I then realised that to a degree, tattoos, and a lot of body modification has a sell by date, a best before date. Getting them done after a certain age, is … well… a midlife crisis I guess? 

We all see the ‘we will be awesome as grandparents’ memes. We are positive saying, hey you know that permanent modification to your body? It will still look amazing when you are in your 70’s. Own that shit. Work it girl. 

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But again, we are being positive about things done while younger. When it comes to being in your thirties, or older, there are still social expectations. You should be responsible. Have a house, married, 2.4 children. a good job. Responsible. And responsible people don’t get a full back tattoo. Or a sleeve. Or anything…. that may be seen to be against the norm. Because to a degree, as normalised tattoos and other body modification is, it is still seen to a degree as rebellion. Although what exactly you are rebelling against is up for debate. 

I am debating this, because it went through my head and I honestly don’t know the answer. While tattoos are becoming more accepted, it still comes with a degree of, you did it while you were younger, you have since changed and grown up. Or you are very much still living an ‘alternative’ life and there really doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

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Is it also, the point when you hit a certain age, the relationships will have been formed, generally speaking. So doing something like getting a massive thigh tattoo might be considered out of character rather than just a good investment. Or something you now have a disposable income for… because you know, house, kids etc. 

So I guess there really is no answer to this, if you want to get covered head to toe for you 45th because you have the means to do it…. go for it. Want to try out body mods? Why not. It isn’t that you have suddenly have a personality transplant. It is more, that you have finally been able to justify it.

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A carnival of clowns

It is that beautiful time of year again, you know, the time of year where leaves change colour and start to cover the pavement in warm colours, when there is a tinge of frost on your breath as you rust to the bus stop in the morning, when you start hearing reports of clowns terrorising your local….

Oh wait, what?

This is a fairly new phenomenon that I really didn’t realise was even… well a phenomenon until very recently. In late August reports started coming out of America that people dressed as clowns were trying to lure children away into forests. This quickly escalated into the clowns coming up to residences and appearing at windows, banding on doors, being a nuisance. I wasn’t alone in wondering at the logic of this, in a country where guns, to a degree are fairly commonplace. I assumed, that this would just be something isolated to America… or maybe I hoped. But no, it wasn’t long before they turned up in the UK. Now, living in Northampton, we had the Northampton Clown a couple of years ago (I am now informed that this was in correlation with the release of either the book or film, IT) who has since been unmasked. In all fairness, he was fairly laid back, and would leave cryptic messages on his FB page, giving clues as to where he would next turn up. He would always just appear standing in the middle of a car park, street corner. Always quiet, never interacting. 

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But since then, things certainly seem to have escalated. It is hard to pin down exactly when clowns started becoming synonymous with Halloween, or when they started terrorising locals – I mean until the Northampton Clown, it was not something I had come accross. And given to urban legend, second hand stories and various differences around the country, you will get told either they haven’t until this year, or that it just something that happens every autumn. Although this year is slightly different in that this escalated quickly and the police have since had to put their foot down and stated that anyone dressing as a clown will run the risk of being arrested on sight. 

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But is dressing as a clown any different from other festivities that come along with this time of year? This is the last hurrah, the party before we all buckle down for potentially a hard winter. I mean traditionally… historically if you will. Halloween has always been a time for scares, pranks, for the veil between the living and the dead to be that little thinner. All Hallows… Eve? and The art of carnival! both explore the history behind our need to let loose. I mean even looking at the football season, especially when it is an international tournament. The fact is that, we are tuned into needing days to let off steam. We are lucky that now we have, as a basic standard, a 5 day working week and 4 weeks holiday, bank holidays. 

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And while I am meandering to my point, bank holidays, to a greater extent have taken over from festival days, although I don’t wish to repeat myself if you have clicked the links to my previous blogs. Not, actually, all that long ago, we didn’t have the luxury of time off, and relied on festival days to blow off steam. Halloween is a time of year that we are slowly taking back. It has always been a time of celebrate, but we have slowly moved it over to a child’s holiday, not something for adults to concern themselves with. Why would we want to dress up and pretend to be someone else? Why would we want to put on a mask for an evening? Why indeed! 

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I don’t condone the idea of people dressing up as clowns to terrorise people, frankly, outside halloween it is kinda.. creepy whether you like clowns or not. And it really does give people the excuse to cause trouble. That is really why there were traditional feast days, and carnival days. So that everyone understood that is was a ‘day off’ from roles, responsibilities, that everyone was on the same level. A sort of, wholesale ‘what happens in Vegas’ situation. 

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So dressing up as a clown at will, from late summer, approaching children, tapping on windows, and hell, even attacking people? This is really not acceptable, there is a reason while, as a society, a global one at that, we are all feeling rather uneasy. It really doesn’t matter what your intention is.. although sorry if you are going to dress up as a clown, you must realise that you have a 70/30% chance of terrorising or upsetting people. Just stick to Halloween weekend/night. And stay either in a club/nightspot, or home. Don’t think it is big or clever to scare innocent people. We have Fright Nights, we have movies, we have enough ‘safe places’ to get scared where we will also be guaranteed comfort and support should anything untoward happen.

I am sorry to sound like such a downer, I love clowns, I love clown makeup, and I adore halloween. But everyone has a right to be safe (even dressed as a clown) and to enjoy themselves! 

HAPPY HAUNTING!

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A fresh Undead

Oh … right… that doesn’t sound right does it ? Well, I make no secret one most of my social media platforms that I have a deep love for zombies. They are fantastic. Kinda like, Vampires but without the snobbery. And glitter. I love glitter but the genre is far to … ‘glittery’ now. So of course, pretty much everyone has seen The Walking Dead. It is back in October. I am surprised by the timing as if they had left it another week it would be out for Halloween. But then I guess we are working with American Autumn schedules which are a little quirky.

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But believe it or not, this is not about TWD as much as I could talk your ear off about the show. And the show has been very influential. For a still relatively new show, it has spawned a great deal of interest in the genre, with new films, games, tv shows all cropping up. Hey I am not complaining!

The only thing that get to me, is I adore reading, and of course, zombies are a great subject. But TWD have infected (see what I did there) the genre to the extent that I would suggest that whole sections of dialogue were written while the author was watching the show. It isn’t always a bad thing. Some authors has used a degree of imagination in pushing through what the writers of TWD may have ignored, or glossed over. Going into more details of the hows, and whys. There are of course we have a variety of different types of zombies, some fast, some slow. Some remember, some are selective in their dinner – and there was one book that used cats in a really disturbing way.

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I would also hesitantly suggest that it is cultural, most of these authors are American. There is a sense of wanting to look at society, the breakdown thereof, what people must or chose to do to survive. British authors tend to be a little bleaker in this respect and not as hesitant to just kill people off, and do it in rather inventive ways. But there has always been something missing, I don’t always quite grasp the motivation of the character, or care. So, what I am trying to say, is that the Zombie genre is muddy at best as everyone fights to get a piece of TWD action.

So, when a friend suggested I read Tide of Souls by Simon Bestwick, I really was not sure what to expect. You see, zombie novels are comforting to me. I know what to expect, there is almost a formula to the story, drag it out over as many books as you like. I have to be honest, I didn’t read the synopsis, I just dove directly into the book. I figured it would be a tale as old as time, with a new finish.

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And boy was I wrong. I am at the edge of my seat reading this book. I won’t spoil it, I am not finished yet. But it is a rare thing for me to be so effected by a book. The language used is refreshing. It feels, real, there are colloquial terms thrown in and you feel as if you are transported. And don’t get me started on the descriptive narrative. I can still hear the flesh tearing from bone, much like our protagonist still does. The book just won’t let you relax. Often, when reading, I find myself skipping through pages as there seems to be filler. Unnecessary paragraphs thrown in, to help us better understand characters. Or as I cynically assume, to help with the word count. It does little or nothing for the word count, and in a book that falls somewhere between action and horror, you really shouldn’t need filler.

Tide of Souls doesn’t give you this option, there isn’t a simple or easy place to put the book down, stop reading … or … dare I say it… turn off the lights. Although I do suggest taking regular breaks because you may do yourself an injury! Somehow, the characters, as small as their part might seem, are so … real? So well written, that you get a feel for them. You can understand them. Maybe you see reflections of people you know, or can empathise with them. Simon shows a confidence in his writing, that he doesn’t need to spend a page or 5 describing a character’s background, upbringing or failed relationship. He is confident enough that he has used fairly recognisable archetypes in his book, while still maintaining their individual uniqueness. And as much as I want to shout from the roof tops (read the book, you will HATE me) he has also managed to tap into several fears, both real and imagined and weave them into a genre that, honestly I thought was over saturated. It isn’t since I read Girl with all the Gifts (seriously if you haven’t read this, do it … like after Tide of Souls, but do it) have I been so impressed with a genre book.

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Edit: since writing  this blog have finished the book, the pace does not let up, in the third part when you think thinks might settle down, be a little more subdued? Not at all, you are just waiting, you know something is going to happen. There is no breathing room. The idea behind it is pretty stark, it is bleak and sad. It is a very, very sad book. There is really little in the way of bright moments, there isn’t what I would call a happy ending .. this is all so very difficult to write without spoiling the book for you and I really do not want to do that. This book keeps you guessing, wondering, it keeps your adrenaline going. It is bleak, but in a way that takes away any distractions from the story, and the story telling. Please, please – go buy this book!

I thoroughly recommend this book, and author and hope you buy and enjoy his book(s) – please let me know if you have already read his books, or if you go on to read this book – let me know what you thought!

CLICK HERE for handy Amazon link to the book 😉

Football Festivities

This is yet again, probably not the blog you are expecting. As you may or may not be aware, the UEFA European Championships are once again upon us. I found out via Facebook. First FB kindly asked if I would like to share scores, or some such. Then there was the influx of complaints about the football. I guess I am lucky, I can mostly avoid football in my ..’real life’ feels wrong.. my physical life? Non Cyber life? Okay that term is something I will need to work on.

Now I went on to see an interesting debate on a friend’s page following on from the question of football and why football tends to garner a certain reaction from fans, which isn’t present in other sports, an example used most often is Rugby, but you could through things like Tennis, Basketball, Hockey and if feeling facetious you could (and someone did) suggest Chess.

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My conclusion at the time was thus : Could it also be the type of person that the game itself attracts, for example those who follow sports also to a degree play the sport. Football non violent so there is always a degree of frustration both on and off the pitch whereas rugby is a violent game, where issues are resolved. Chess is an intellectual game, and so any arguments would be resolved with coherent debate, so I would suggest this would be the case in a perceived slight either as competitor or audience member? I would extrapolate that it might have something with the amount of testosterone that either participating or watching causes to be released, and how it is channeled, effectively or not.

But this hasn’t left me, as clearly, the football won’t be either, going by the signs of patriotism I saw on my way into town this morning (flags, houses and cars, festooned.. each to their own, I have Halloween decorations outside my home) and so I have continued to ponder this. If you are wondering why this has taken on so much of my time, I compartmentalise and so I am generally thinking on a number of topics or subject. But I have since drawn comparisons to the idea of ‘carnival’ which I did a blog post on last year The art of carnival! which was a brief exposition on what carnival once was and meant.

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You see, things always happen for a reason. I don’t mean, you missed your bus and ended up in a coffee shop and met your one true love. I am talking about timing. We still have festivals at certain times of year, the timetables have not changed, since before Christ. We have celebrations at certain times of year. For example, you could suggest that we have football tournaments at this time of year because the weather is at its more temperate. Which is a lie. It is an international game now, so the weather will be different depending what hemisphere you are standing on at the time. And we should… well.. the idea is that it should be relatively warm. It isn’t. It is because we have kept to the festival days in rough approximation for … well as far back as we care to go.

Is football a legitimised ‘carnival’ of sorts – well, yes, actually i would say it is. There is the idea that anything go’s, that it doesn’t count, there is a holiday atmosphere and to an extent it is encouraged. Why our fans (among others, England fans are not alone!) are so … extreme in their behavior may have something to do with the long hours that are put in, the lack of money for entertainment. From the moment you commit to becoming an adult, you are expected to provide, either yourself, or later your family. You become responsible and you can’t just go off for a weekend and leave your troubles behind. You have a wife, children, a job. When you go on holiday you are with your family. You are with other families, you have to keep some of that veneer of responsibility alive.

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But going away with the ‘lads’ is reminiscent of holidays that have to a degree, become a right of passage for many young people, going to Spain and other, far but still close, destinations that are hot, and cheap. That you can just get away from your real life, let your hair down, drink too much, spend too much time in the sun, and get a tattoo or 3 that you instantly regret. You are young, possibly singe (but who will tell) you have just finished school, college or in a break at uni. This is all very natural and part of human nature, and again comes into the idea of carnival. One of the themes is hiding your true self, either by mask or by becoming something you are not. For some people it is becoming promiscuous, or a heavy drinker, someone who has tattoos. I am not for a moment trying to become judgemental but this is my attempt at understanding the phenomenon! This is great when you are either just heading toward your Twenties, or mid twenties, but the older you get the more responsible, you have to adult.

And so, it reaches a point where you need a natural release. For families, local councils still offer ‘opiate for the masses’ by offering fun fairs, markets, entertainment that is relatively inexpensive and accessible by all. But it isn’t letting your hair down. It isn’t the type of letting down of hair and general debauchery that we are more likely to think as Roman. So while it is good at helping the towns citizens feel a little better about living there, and spaced throughout the year so that it not only makes everyone feel good, it allows for exchange of coin, people coming into the town and people having a good reason to visit other towns, thereby promoting tourism albeit on a small scale.

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But this is like I said, not really enough, if you work 40+ hours a week, you live with several other people of varying sex and age, with familial dynamics, where you have to be constantly aware of what others needs and wants are and often putting them in front of your own. But when you get to go away on to see a football tournament, you are encouraged to a degree to get lairy, to cheer, to promote your own team winning over others, you get competitive. You drink. A lot. Often you are in the sun for hours at a time and there is a feeling, generally, of festivities. We are pack animals, we are often effected by moods of those around us. So when there is a lot of goading, celebration, attitude of ‘them versus us’ it is infectious. It is spur of the moment, holiday mood, you are being validated because you are supporting your team either locally or nationally and you need to defend your team and your own honour. 

So, during the course of writing this, England were knocked out, and unfortunately, so were Germany. Which I am very upset about. Don’t talk to me about it. Still fresh. See, even someone who has zero interest in the sport, gets upset when her home team gets knocked out! But I can’t condone the violence, but I think I can now, understand it to an extent.

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The art of carnival!

In a recent post, I touched on the history of Halloween, where it finds its roots (sorry america, you aren’t responsible for this one!) and this led to an interesting discussion about festival days and carnival, really how ingrained it is in our society. It is something I studied at uni so I thought I would revisit.

Now while I was at Uni, the period I was looking at covered the 15th & 16th century and at first glance you would think that this would bear no relevance to today. But please give me a moment of your time and you will see that things have not really changed.

Now we are fast approaching Halloween which is popularised by costume wearing, this was indeed a big part of festival days, were you would have several roles, that were easily distinguished, and still recognisable today. For example, Hero’s and Heroines, wise rulers, fools, knights, damsels in distress were all popular features. In urban environments peasants were often portrayed as dishonest.

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Another popular theme was The World Turned Upside Down; Judges in stocks, Clergy dressed as women etc. Carnivals would be presided over by a fat man, often carrying a phallic symbol, the Carnival King. It was often young men that kept things going, carnival spirit was freedom and release from the daily toil – some festivals would go one for days and even weeks. Although from time to time, they were also used as political stages.

As part of the ‘world turned upside down’ theme found in festivals and carnivals there was often a ‘Lord of Misrule’. In the main, this was legitimised disorder built into the 12 days of Christmas. Originally appointed at the royal court, he was given full ‘panoply of kingship’ including a throne, armoury, a jester and a gibbet for mock executions.

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This was also true of private households, Polydor Virgil, writing in the 15th Century emphasised that there were mock rulers to whom the usual leaders of the household or official institutions became subservient to during the Christmas period. It seems that the office lay in role reversal, in the elevation of the servant to a position of apparent authority. The alteration of the natural order seems to have been the misrule involved and a suitable symbol for a season of revelry and release from work. No information remains on exactly how they carried out their duties 😉

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However, at Christmas 1516/17 someone took this idea a little far. A ‘Jack Straw’ figure and his ‘followers’ appeared at the Lincoln Inn, broke down doors, and invaded rooms. This was carried out in the spirit of the season but not a legitimised action. Jack Straw was named after the leader of the 1381 Peasants Revolt and clearly an instigator of pranks and wild behaviour among young men.

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Carnivals were also an opportunity to ‘punish’ those who did not stick to traditional roles, a woman marrying a younger man, a young married couple unable to produce a child – they would often be harried and harassed. Eggs and flour through at their house, pots and pans hit outside their house at all hours to make sure they would not get any peace. In some cases, these were the sort of cases brought to the Lord of Misrule to face a court and decide their punishment.

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Carnivals succeed in allowing people to ‘blow off steam’ every year, in symbolic and ritualised ways. In this way, it helped to control the populations, if the people knew that at certain times of the year they would be able to relax and let heir hair down. However, this was not always enough to curb revolution; ritualised revelry could only accomplish so much. Sometimes the issues at hand; if not properly addressed would cause mass rebellion. Religious movements at the time also meant that some festivals were beginning to be frowned upon as they had their roots in pagan rituals. Although a lot of the festivals were able to be incorporated into the new religious calendar, in order to minimise the upheaval for people still getting used to the new set of morals and life style codes being inflicted upon them.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading this, I realise it isn’t to everyone’s taste but it does offer food for thought – think about festivals that we still have today – music festivals that last 3 or 4 days, bank holidays, religious holidays that are still observed but now secular. The ideas behind festival and feast days have not been diminished, but they have taken on new guises.