Of magic, dreams and love. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads:
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn

As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.
Le Cirque des Rêves
The Circus of Dreams.

Now the circus is open.
Now you may enter.”

Sometimes, you stumble upon a book that is truly magical. It draws you in from the very first page and you find it nigh on impossible to put it down, as if there was some special power to it. You are torn between devouring the book in one sitting and savouring each and every word. You try to pace yourself, but you’re so immersed in the story that you can barely think of anything else.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of those books.

The circus is a magical place, a place that leaves visitors awestruck and wide-eyed. But the magic goes far beyond the contortionists, the acrobats, the carousels and the candied apples. Because the circus is a venue for a duel between two young, talented magicians, a duel that only one of them will survive.

Long before the circus was born, Celia and Marco were bound to this battle of imagination and will by their mentors. They were meant to be rivals, but, against all odds, they fall in love with each other. Will true love be enough to end the game, or will sacrifices need to be made? The fates of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hang in balance until the duel plays out.

The Night Circus is like an exquisite meal for the reader’s imagination: beautifully written, inventive, witty and heartbreaking at the same time, its layers reveal themselves as you go deeper and deeper into the story. Pay close attention to the timeline, dear reader, because not everything is as obvious and linear as it may seem. As the story unveils and the characters develop, you will be drawn into a truly marvelous world. And, just like me, you might end up wishing Le Cirque des Rêves was real, and would come to your town, unexpectedly and without warning, at some point in the future.

The Night Circus was published in the UK by Vintage Books. It’s Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel and I really look forward to reading more of her work.

nightcircus

 

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Slimelight. 30 years of a legend.

When a club turns 30, you know they’re doing something right.

Slimelight, the longest running alternative club in the world and London’s goth mecca, has been operating in its current home in Electrowerkz for 30 years, but its roots go a bit further back in time, to the mid-80s, when it used to be called The Kit Kat Club. The name Slimelight first appeared in 1987 and is a nod to another club, The Limelight, as both were held in disused churches for a period of time.

Slimelight, or Slimes, as regulars affectionately call it, is open every Saturday (the only exception is the Christmas period if it falls on a Saturday) and on New Year’s Eve, from 11 pm until 7:30 am, so if you’re a nocturnal animal, this is the place to go. As London clubs go, it’s ridiculously cheap: entry is £5 for members, £8 for non-members. Initially, it was members-only and to become a member, you had to be nominated by a minimum of two current members. It also had a BYOB policy. This has changed in the 90s, when Electrowerkz became a licensed premises. But drinks are still a bargain when compared to other clubs and live music venues, so unless you drink like a fish, a night at Slimes won’t break the bank.

Pre-Slimelight gigs, as well as club shows during regular opening hours, take place every now and again, and artists who have performed there over the years include VNV Nation, Rotersand, 3 Teeth, Combichrist and Suicide Commando.

Usually consisting of two dance floors (a trad goth/darkwave one and an industrial/EBM/aggrotech/futurepop one), with an extra one or two opening for special occasions (industek/noise/Wax Trax and cheesy 80s), it’s a firm fixture on the London nightlife map. If you’re a goth/alternative person visiting London, you should definitely come and spend the night dancing, chatting to like-minded people, and having the time of your life.

Some say the venue is shabby (spoilers: yes, it is, but it only adds to the flavour), the music never changes (another spoiler: it does – there’s plenty of new stuff being played) and there’s not as many people coming to Slimes as in the past (that’s also true, but I suspect it’s because the scene is ageing and people who used to go out every weekend now only do it every now and then). But the fact is, there’s no place like Slimelight.

I still remember my first time, back in 2005, when I moved to London. I didn’t know anyone, so I went on my own, avoided talking to people, danced the night away and had a blast. Over time, Slimes became my second home, and I’ve met a bunch of wonderful people there, some of whom are now my good friends. The best thing about it is that it’s always there, so when I’m feeling down, I know I can rely on it to lift my mood and make me better again. Whether I feel like dancing, socialising, or just hanging about and people-watching, a night at Slimelight is never a bad idea.

Club 1
The Tube bar at Electrowerkz, the home of Slimelight, is great for chilling.

Now, I know a lot of alternative people out there suffer from social anxiety and avoid clubs like the plague. But places like Slimes are usually full of friendly, open-minded people who won’t judge you. So my advice is: bite the bullet, come out. Even if you’re really shy and don’t want to talk to anyone, you might find yourself having more fun than you thought was possible.

And who knows, maybe you’ll find your second home, just like I did.

To get updates on upcoming events, check out the club’s official Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/SlimelightOfficial/

Wave-Gotik-Treffen. Packing 101.

Not long to go now – I’m off to my favourite festival, Wave-Gotik-Treffen, on Wednesday. I usually leave packing until the very last minute, which results in frantically searching for that particular black dress in my all-black wardrobe, chucking in all my makeup in a plastic bag, and forgetting to pack something absolutely essential, like my toothbrush or passport. Well, OK, the latter has never happened before, but it wouldn’t be too surprising.

This year, I have a few days off just before the festival, so I thought I’d use this time wisely and get stuff done early. Which is why my suitcase is pretty much packed now. Now, that’s what I call a win.

Apart from stuff like clothes and boots and makeup, there’s a few things I make sure I always pack. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Blister plasters. I usually stick these little soothing patches of loveliness on problem areas on my feet just before heading out. Strutting about in New Rocks and Demonias can result in an awful condition called Treffen Foot, and I do everything I can to make sure I don’t miss anything because I’ve lost the ability to walk. On that note, a spare pair of comfy shoes is a must. It is not uncommon to see goths in trainers and sandals on the final day of the festival. Nothing wrong with that; putting yourself through unnecessary suffering just to look fab is just not worth it.
  2. Plug converter. If you live in continental Europe, you’re fine, but if you’re coming from anywhere else, make sure you pack one or two of those. It’s no fun to realise you can’t charge your phone because your plug doesn’t fit the socket.
  3. Painkillers. Because waking up with a headache from too much partying and not enough sleep is inevitable, and looking for a pharmacy when you do is not something you’d want to do.
  4. Hand sanitiser. You’ll be out and about a lot, you’re likely to eat street food without having the opportunity to wash your hands first. I put mine in a cute bat-shaped sanitiser dispenser, which gets me extra goth points.

    20170527_190937.jpg
    Spooky sanitiser.
  5. Power bank. Even if you don’t use your phone abroad as much as you do at home, it’s not great to run out of juice in the middle of the night, just as you were about to call your friends and check where they were.
  6. Earplugs and an eye mask. You won’t get much sleep, and if you’re anything like me, you’re very unlikely to go to bed when it’s dark, so try to make your sleep as good as you can. I’m finding it hard to sleep when it’s light out, and, being a light sleeper, I wake at the slightest sound, so these items are absolutely essential.

And what’s on your list of stuff you always bring with you?

What lies beneath. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

A woman turns up dead at the bottom of the river running through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate.

They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With her compelling, dark debut The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins has become a household name, next to Gillian Flynn and S. J. Watson. Her second book, Into the Water, is a dark, twisted mystery, but this is where comparisons to Hawkins’ debut novel end. It is by no means a carbon copy of the thrilling debut, it’s a story in and of itself.

Hawkins seems to have a talent for character building. Flawed and fragile, yet at the same time resilient and strong, they seem as real as the people around us. They make mistakes, they pay for them, they do terrible things and great things and cowardly things, and all the things in between. Maybe this is what makes them so relatable.

The story winds like the river, the twists and turns make the book hard to put down. Secrets are revealed gradually, and just when you think you’ve figured it all out, something happens that changes everything, leaving you guessing.

It’s not easy to write a second novel if your debut was a massive success. It’s not easy to escape comparisons. I think Paula Hawkins has managed to hold her own. Into the Water is by no means worse than The Girl on the Train; if anything, it’s even better, and I’m really looking forward to more.

Into the Water was published in the UK by Transworld Publishing.

hawkinsintothewater

Wave Gotik Treffen 2017: 5 bands worth checking out.

The festival season is upon us and my favourite event of the year is just around the corner. Wave Gotik Treffen, the oldest and biggest goth festival in the world, now in its 26th year, is more than just a music festival. As the name suggests, it’s a meeting of like-minded individuals who tend to enjoy the darker things in life. Every year on Whitsun weekend, Leipzig turns black. Elaborate outfits and otherworldly makeup mix with band T-shirts and battered boots. Whether you enjoy dancing until dawn or just hanging out with your old and new friends, drinking and putting the world to rights, Wave Gotik Treffen is THE place to be if you’re a bit on the spooky side.

But a festival wouldn’t be a festival without music. If you’re looking for big names, Wave Gotik Treffen probably won’t be your cup of tea, but if you’re happy to delve into the weird and the obscure, you won’t be disappointed.

Every year, I try to listen to all the bands that have been announced, and every year, I discover something new and interesting. So here’s my top 5 discoveries from this year’s lineup. Check them out!

Desperate Journalist

They describe themselves as “shimmering post-punk”, and I think it’s on point. Based in London and formed in 2012,  with hauntingly beautiful vocals and mesmerising guitars, they’ve released their second album, Grow Up, in March this year. They’ll be playing in London soon, but I’m hoping to catch them at WGT this year, too.

 

Ritual Howls

“Industrial rock meets cinematic deathrock” is the description on the band’s website. With dark and gloomy lyrics and surreal, atmospheric sound, this US-based band will appeal to fans of Soft Kill and Ash Code.

 

V2A

If you like hard, punchy beats, these guys are a must-see. This hard EBM/industrial band has been around for a while (since 2001) and their latest album, Heretic, has a clear post-apocalyptic theme to it. Their live performances are absolutely legendary, and I really can’t wait to see them in Leipzig.

 

Esben and the Witch

I first heard them in 2014, when they were supporting Sólstafir at The Dome, and I was immediately enchanted. The three-piece from Brighton plays music that is, somehow, primal yet subtle, bringing to mind the dark fairy tales that children are terrified of, but can’t stop listening to.

 

Fïx8:Sëd8

This is one of the most interesting dark electro projects I’ve stumbled upon this year. The complex soundscapes are the work of one Martin Sane, the mastermind behind the project. The new album, Foren6, is out on 19th May, so just in time for WGT.

 

Are you going to any festivals this year? Or perhaps you’ve discovered an obscure band you’d like to shout about from the rooftops?

Home is where the quirks are.

When I first came to live in the UK, I couldn’t understand the appeal of putting milk in your tea. Back where I’m from, this was what pregnant and breastfeeding women did, and I was neither. I would adamantly stand my ground and have my tea with lemon and honey, ignoring the weird looks I’d get from café employees and colleagues.

Fast forward 12 years, and here I am, sipping my tea with a dash of milk, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When you move to a new country, you inevitably find some things baffling. To some, you get used quite quickly. I don’t know how I’ve lived for so many years without a 24/7 off licence on my doorstep, cashiers giving me my change back right into my hand, or a fry-up for breakfast (hold the beans, though). Others, like putting milk in tea or driving on the “wrong” side of the road, take a bit longer to get used to, but eventually, they do, and they become obvious. You pick up slang words and idioms, and even if you don’t lose your accent, the language you use marks you as one of the locals. Without even trying, you put roots down, you make yourself at home.

I know I have.

There’s a few things I will never get used to. Take using two taps instead of one. While the rest of the world enjoys having water you can touch running from their taps, the Brits insist on: a) freezing, or b) scalding. Seriously, why?

taps
A burn or a frostbite? Take your pick.

Or Marmite. Apparently, there are people out there who love the stuff. I suspect they’re closet masochists.

Or the obsession with gardening. It doesn’t matter that your garden is the size of an A4 sheet of paper, spending the day in the local garden centre is perfectly justified.

garden
“I take pride in my garden.”

But there are some British quirks that even Brits don’t understand, and that’s OK. Because sometimes, you don’t need to. You just need to keep calm and carry on.

Gloomy goths, happy goths. Debunking a misconception.

It’s a beautiful, sunny day and I’m sitting on the roof terrace at work, having a delicious lunch. I can hear the sounds of the bustling city around me while I turn the pages of the book I’m currently reading. In a few hours, I will go home and cuddle my two cats. I’ll probably cook something, perhaps listen to some music, maybe watch something. I’ll enjoy the little things.

I usually do.

There’s this common misconception that goths are always miserable, sad and/or angry. That we never smile and constantly moan about anything and everything. That we all share a deep, relentless hatred towards life.

Newsflash: this is bullshit.

If you don’t believe it, do me a favour: go to a goth club. See all those happy people on the dancefloor, prancing about merrily to Siouxsie and the Banshees and singing along with Peter Murphy? Yes, these surprisingly lively creatures are goths. Sure, some do mope about, usually for a reason: they’ve run out of drinks money, they’ve just had a tiff with a friend, or they’re just a bit tired. It happens to everyone, right? Some of the happy ones are probably a bit high on whatever substance they favour; but then, again, aren’t non-goths, too, occasionally?

If you’re expecting to see some lonely figures hiding in dark corners, writing angsty poetry or crying their eyes out, you’re in for a surprise. Instead, you’ll see clusters of people chatting, drinking, and dancing. Oh, and some of them might even be – shock, horror! – smiling.

My point is that we may look different from other people and like different things, but we enjoy the little things in life just as much as the next person. I’d even go as far to say that there’s more things out there that we enjoy that the non-goths. Because we take pleasure in the “normal” things (a cup of coffee, good food, a stroll by the river) as well as the darker things (a stormy night, a video of a cute bat, a spine-chillingly spooky book).

nemi
Nemi is one happy goth girl.

The fact that we dress in black doesn’t mean that our lives are all doom and gloom, just like the fact that someone wears pastels doesn’t mean they’re perpetually happy. Not that anyone would ever make such a ridiculous assumption. So why make similarly ridiculous ones about goths?