Gothic Adventures in Nottingham

I can’t believe this was over a month ago now, but I wanted to talk about how I spent much of the Easter weekend in Nottingham with my good friends Beth and Mandy. Beth and Mandy are both still at university doing their History PhDs (poor things) so we were looking to celebrate the end of term in style! We did this by attending an Amorphis gig at the Rescue Rooms on Good Friday, visiting the Kitty Café on Saturday, and then checking out The Pit and The Pendulum pub on Easter Sunday.


Amorphis

We had briefly seen Amorphis support Nightwish at Wembley Arena, 19 December 2015, however back then we had only managed to catch the tail-end of their setlist, much to Beth and Mandy’s disappointment. It was good to see them play a full gig of their own this time. Though I have been known to blast a bit of ‘Bad Blood’ upon occasion, I am not particularly au fait with Amorphis’ stuff and due to some train issues (i.e. it never showed up) we also missed both support acts, so I didn’t feel qualified to write a full gig review. What I did see and experience however was quite good, though not especially distinctive or exciting. Amorphis have a very steady, rhythmic sound that blends death and prog metal with folklore-based lyrics, specifically taking inspiration from the Kalevala; the Epic Poem of their home-country, Finland. Whilst I had a lot of fun and it was by no means a bad show, I feel as though I may as well have gone home and put one of their albums on. They were technically very good, but the sound and performance were very rote; not dramatic enough for my personal tastes. I did manage to dig up a copy of their setlist for the night though, so if they sound like your bag check out the below. I recommend ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Death Of A King’, both of which were gig highlights:

Amorphis1. Under The Red Cloud
2. Sacrifice
3. Bad Blood
4. Sky Is Mine
5. The Wanderer
6. On Rich And Poor
7. Drowned Maid
8. Dark Path
9. The Four Wise Ones
10. Silent Waters
11. My Kantele
12. Hopeless Days
13. House Of Sleep

Encore:

14. Death of a King
15. Silver Bride
16. The Smoke

 

Amorphis, Nottingham, Rescue Rooms

Verdict: 3/5


Kitty Café

The following day, we all had a bit of headbanger’s neck, so we took it easy in the morning, mainlining episodes of How To Make A Murderer on Netflix before making our way into town for the thing I’d been looking forward to most about my visit… lunch at the The Kitty Café!

Kitty Café

Cat cafés, for those who don’t know, are places that serve up food and drink – often of the high tea variety – to customers whilst they are surrounded by adorable rescue cats, all of which are up for adoption. The concept originated in Japan – because all things cute, crazy and a little bit genius start there – and since then, they’ve begun to spring up all over the place.

Kitty Café - catsObviously, if you’re planning on visiting a cat café, make sure they’re reputable and put the health and well-being of the cats first (I’ve read some real horror stories). In keeping with this, the Kitty Café in Nottingham has strict rules about what will and will not be tolerated during your stay. It was very clean environment with a calm, relaxed atmosphere, and the cats were all very contented. A £5 donation fee was charged upon entrance (£3 for concessions), and then the food and drink was all very reasonably priced inside. I had a pot of tea to myself, with an absolutely enormous tuna and caramelised onion melt topped off with an indulgent slice of banoffee pie. It was absolutely delicious! On our way out I also bought a branded teacup and a cute cat scarf as souvenirs, the proceeds of which go towards the welfare of kitties.

The only downside of our visit was that due to the place being so completely booked up, we only had a time limit of one hour to enjoy ourselves. Still, it was more than enough time to eat our food and we had an absolutely lovely time. I cannot recommend it enough! ♥


The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the PendulumLast on our list of must-see places to visit whilst in Nottingham was the Victorian-style Eerie pub, The Pit and the Pendulum.

We went here for lunch on the Easter Sunday, shortly before Mandy and I departed by train to our respective home towns. Considering that we had positively gorged ourselves on take-away pizzas and oily curries already that weekend, I’m not sure any of us were in the mood for a greasy pub lunch… Nevertheless, the pilgrimage had to be made! Named after a short story about dread and torment by horror writer Edgar Allan Poe, The Pit and the Pendulum is a gothic themed pub run by alternative members of staff decorated in the style of a torture chamber. As well as stone walls, heavy gothic tables and chairs and artwork paying homage to Poe all over the walls, there is an actual pit with a great bladed pendulum hanging from the ceiling in the spiral stairwell.

PendulumIf I am honest, the food in here was not that great. I had a fish finger sandwich and it was pretty dry and dire. However, it was lunchtime on an Easter Sunday – the town was completely dead – so the kitchen probably resented us being there at all. I have been well assured by Beth that the place really comes alive at night, and they specialise in gothic club nights and a couple of drinking challenges called The 7 Deadly Sins and The 7 Contrary Virtues (you get a T-shirt for completing them). A return visit is definitely on the menu!

Many thanks to Beth and Mandy for a wonderful Easter weekend. I had so much fun and hope to do something equally as awesome soon.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


For more information on the locations that we visited, please visit the below links:

http://www.rescuerooms.com/
https://kittycafe.co.uk/
http://www.eerie-pubs.co.uk/pit-pendulum

Amorphis’ official website:

http://www.amorphis.net/

Fancy a listen? Check out these officially-released videos from their latest album, Under The Red Cloud:

‘Sacrifice’: https://youtu.be/oiOX2axSWvg
‘Death Of A King’: https://youtu.be/Kc-gEds3eTM
‘The Four Wise Ones’: https://youtu.be/nkqj4vbwdIw

All photos included in this blog were taken by me, except the photos of Amorphis which were taken from the band’s official Facebook page.

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La Pomme D’Or

I was asked by my writing partner K.F. Goodacre the other day if I knew of any old English or Irish female given names that meant ‘hero’. She asked me this question because she was looking to name a new character, whom I supposed she wished to embody heroic traits, but in actual fact was named for the Greek myth of Leander and Hero (see here). The husband of this new character’s full name is Oleander, which itself means ‘poisonous shrub’ and is rather befitting of his personality

Unlike parents naming their newborn child, writers have the advantage of knowing their characters inside out, thus can have a bit of fun when assigning names. It provides opportunities for clever foreshadowing, referencing other words or sharing an in-joke with those in the know.

Or, if you’re like me, you just pluck or steal names from all over the shop – friends, colleagues, other people’s characters, gravestones etc. – stick ’em on your character’s forehead like a post-it note and hope that nobody notices your crippling lack of imagination.

Such is the case with The Mayor. I struggled so much with naming these characters that I even had to ask K.F. Goodacre to name one for me (Jaspher, if you must know; there’s no way I could have come up with something that original on my own). When it came to naming my protagonist, Melora, I literally just named her after the woman who inspired her into existence: Melora Creager of Rasputina. Fortunately, when I spoke to Melora Creager about this, she was very excited by the prospect and didn’t mind that I’d essentially stolen her identity; the point is that there was no thought process when it came to giving Melora her name at all.

~ WARNING: Major spoilers for The Mayor to follow ~

John (Tuomas Holopainen)4 APPLE!The same was true of another one of my characters: Melora’s best friend and lover, Jonathan “Redcoat Jack” Carson. John was named after the pirate that inspired his storyline: Jonathan “Calico Jack” Rackham (are you seeing a pattern here? It’s actually quite embarrassing how little creativity I have). When I first started writing with John, I am not sure how or why, but it soon became apparent that he bloody loves apples, especially red apples. He steals them from fruit stalls, swipes them from the family fruit bowl and complains if he has to travel somewhere where he can’t get any.

I didn’t plan for it, it just happened, until it became an integral part of his character to the point that other characters also associate them with him. Whilst the love of the fruit was accidental, the colour I chose was not, as the red foreshadows the colour of the coat he becomes famous for wearing during his piratical exploits. Also, given John’s propensity for hedonism and the passion and love he and Melora share, I also deliberately take every opportunity I can to draw on the historic symbolism of apples and their association with seduction and temptation. After their first night together, for example, the last thing Melora remembers is Redcoat Jack scooping up an apple and taking a bite out of it as he leaves the room.

The point I am trying to make here is that, off the back of my conversation with K.F. Goodacre, I looked up the meaning of the name ‘Melora’. To my surprise and absolute delight, I discovered that it means…

‘Golden Apple’.

The Golden Apple Tree and the Nine Peaheans - Arthur Rackham 1916

Now there’s some accidental subconscious genius for you.

S.E. Berrow


 

The man with the red apple pictured is John’s ‘faceclaim’: a young Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish.

The painting is The Golden Tree & Nine Peahens (1916) by Arthur Rackham.

 

 

NaNoWriMo: The Halfway Point

NaNoWriMo bookcaseWe are now officially over halfway through NaNoWriMo 2015 and I am sorry to report that I have been a very bad NaNoWriMo participant indeed. I have hardly written anything, and I say this without exaggeration or irony because I have only written a rather non-spectacular 4,929 words. Whilst they are very good words (I really am genuinely very very pleased with them) it’s an inescapable fact that I’m running alarmingly behind schedule if I am to have any hope of reaching 50,000 words by the end of the month. To do so, I would need to write at least 3,219 words per day, which realistically is not going to happen.

Thing is though, I always knew I was going to ‘lose’ NaNoWriMo, and I never actually set out to ‘win’ it. I just wanted to use it as an exercise to get back into the habit of writing on a regular basis. Being the despairing owner of a 170,000 word-draft of pure unfinished ramble (my original draft of The Mayor shamefully amounts to only a 1/4 of the whole book), I’m not exactly the firmest believer in ‘quantity over quality’. I’m a very slow writer even at the best and most creative of times.

I have however, at this halfway point, learned a few things:

1) I don’t actually need long, extended periods of uninterrupted writing time sat behind my desk. All the words I’ve written for NaNoWriMo so far have been written on my morning train journey and in the kitchen on my lunch break. Given half an hour or so, I can churn out about 300 words. So if I wrote every day for a week, that’d be approximately 2100 words. If I wrote every day for a month, that’d be approximately 8400 words. If I wrote every day for a year, that’d be approximately 100,800 words i.e. at least one book’s worth. My train journey takes about 30 minutes, each way, so voila. I seem to have found some writing time.

2) The 170,000 words I originally wrote of The Mayor and have been tempted to burn many times aren’t actually that bad, just long-winded. In fact, they’re pretty good, and it’d do me well to perhaps spend some time hammering these into submission and rewriting great chunks of it rather than starting completely afresh as I originally intended. Don’t kill your darlings… recycle them!

3) Writing should be fun. I do find writing fun, most of the time. But NaNoWriMo’s word counts make it feel like a chore. It doesn’t work for everyone, and I think after several attempts now both at regular NaNoWriMo and also Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s time for me to accept that this sort of thing just isn’t for me and to not to feel guilty about it. Crippling levels of guilt and feelings of failure just stop me from writing anything at all.

So, with two weeks still to go on NaNoWriMo, here’s to hoping I can churn out at least another 4,929 words. After all, 9,858 words written over 30 days may not be as many as 50,000, but it’s better than no words at all! And better than just vomiting out words, if I’m honest…

How is NaNoWriMo going for you? Are you doing any better or trailing behind like I am?

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


 

Think you’ve got what it takes to pen 50,000 words in 30 days? Check out NaNoWriMo’s official websites below. Good luck!

www.nanowrimo.org
www.campnanowrimo.org

Berrow and Goodacre’s Annual Writing Retreat Part II: The Hermits Emerge

Click here to read Part I.

Thus the Writing Retreat has come to an end, and K.F. Goodacre and I must return to our day jobs. I must confess, my level of productivity paled in comparison to that of K.F. Goodacre, who’s been slashing words from her book baby as though editing were some form of infanticide. Me? Well I spent most of my time sorting out my extremely out of date Scrivener file and organising the research photos from my visit to New Orleans last year for one of my current projects, Salt. I also did a little bit of editing myself and a smidgeon of plotting, essentially attempting to hammer my existing work into some form of springboard that I can push up from.

Truth be told, I haven’t actually picked any writing up since April last year. Two things happened around that time that caused the longest and most numbing spate of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced:

1) My beloved cat Jaffa died slap-bang in the middle of a really productive Camp Nanowrimo and I was too upset to continue.

2) I bought a house. Not just any house, but a new build that didn’t actually complete until late December/early January.

Have you ever bought a house before? If so, you will know how stressful purchasing a house is; obtaining a mortgage, scrabbling around for money you didn’t even realise you needed, having to deal with rude and incompetent solicitors… At the same time I was stuck in a job I absolutely loathed, but I couldn’t move on because it would violate the conditions of my mortgage. Then, after I moved in, I had to find a new job and at the same time deal with all the stresses of living expenses, furnishing and decorating. New job aside, I’m still dealing with these stresses, but at least now it’s gradually receding into the background radiation of my everyday existence.

Regardless, I know that life simply won’t stop just so I can write a book, and now things are considerably less hectic than they were before, I really need to get back into the ‘swing’ of writing again. The more I write, the more I want to write, so this weekend’s Writing Retreat – whilst not as productive as it could have been – did succeed in reminding me how much I love my story, and how much I want to continue writing it. I sometimes get the notion that I am ‘not worthy’ of writing Salt; that I lack the ability to weave the story that I want to tell properly. Yesterday whilst out for a Sunday roast dinner in a group, my friend Maria asked me if I had written anymore, because I sent the opening chapter to her last year and she thought it was ‘amazing’. It was really lovely to hear her praise, despite the crushing guilt I felt at not having written anything more to show her. There’s only one way to change that of course… I need to write more!

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


Official website for K.F. Goodacre:
http://kfgoodacre.com/

For more information on Camp Nanowrimo, visit:
http://campnanowrimo.org/