Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Ethical Shopping in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has always been well served with ethical shops and as a small city with good public transport links it's always seemed easy to me to get to any of these shops whenever I want. Recently a few other ethical shops have opened to give us all an even wider choice.

The Eco Larder recently opened its doors on Morrison Street (conveniently near Haymarket station for those visiting Edinburgh), offering a range of products plastic free! You take along your own containers and can fill them up then weigh and pay. The product range is wide and includes toiletries and cleaning products all of which are sustainably produced and unpackaged, reducing single use plastic and waste. The Eco Larder has also set up the Plastic Free Edinburgh Badge Scheme which is encouraging local businesses to reduce their plastic use and offering a badge that can be displayed so that customers can know which businesses are doing their bit to recude plastic use!

If you're in Leith then Weigh to Go is your local equivalent of the Eco Larder, which is opening literally as I type this!

The SHRUB Co-op recently opened a swap shop in Bread Street where you can swap items or take items in to earn tokens to them swap for other items in the future. They also will accept money. SHRUB also offers creative upcycling workshops, bike repairs and a food sharing project. It's student run and most of the customers are students but they are actively trying to reach further out to non students.

These make a great addition to the existing ethical shops in the city which include:

Real Foods - there are two branches of this long standing ethical food shop in Edinburgh, one in Tollcross (which also offers a refill service for eco-friendly brands of cleaning materials)  and a larger one in Broughton Street.

The New Leaf is the cooperatively run owned grocery store in the Meadows which sells organic foods and ethical cleaning products. It offers a refilling service on ecofriendly cleaning products.

One World Shop - another long-standing Edinburgh institution, the One World Shop sells fair-trade products including teas and coffees, chocolates and a wide variety of gifts including books, jewellery and toys. 

Hendersons is another long standing institution, with a popular basement vegetarian cafe, a food shop and a vegan bistro restaurant.The cafe hosts poetry readings and other events.

The Forest Cafe (where I recently spent a week as poet in residence) offers a good selection of vegan and vegetarian food, free bread for people in need and a free shop. It also runs workshops and other events.

There are plenty of vegetarian restaurants in Edinburgh and probably other ethical stores I've missed off the list, but this is just an overview.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Emerald - the second literary magazine from Monstrous Regiment

Monstrous Regiment, an indie press based in Edinburgh, was founded by Lauren and Ellen, two publishing students. Their publications focus on themes of feminism, sexuality, and gender. I reviewed their first three publications over on my Shapeshifting Green blog here.

Emerald is the second issue of their literary journal (following on from Crimson). All the stories, poems and artwork in this issue are somehow inspired by the colour green - everything from St Patrick's Day to envy and with a good number of pieces looking at nature and environmental issues.

The first story PezCo Helps focuses on Myfanwy and how her life is defined by the local PezCo upermarket. I really enjoyed this story, with its explorations of consumerism, our relationship with supermarkets and their impact on the environment.

 Myfanwy wasn't the first to mistake excellent customer service for love. She'd written off the the tailored deals, the folksy tweets, the 'Have a Lovely Day' from the PezCo Helpers as twee at first, but now she looked forward to them.

It's worth buying Emerald for this story alone.

Another of my favourites here, Four Green Walls is narrated in the voice of a cow who lives in the city and makes the reader think about how we treat farm animals.

The Siren's Catcall also particularly impressed me, an entertaining reimagination of the mythological sirens who lured sailors to their deaths.

I enjoyed all the stories here. (The poetry less so, to be honest.)

It's always good to see a new local publishing venture start up and I'm interested to read future publications from Monstrous Regiment.

Emerald published by Monstrous Regiment (2018) £10.00.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Birds on Arthur's Seat

We had a lovely walk round Arthur's Seat yesterday. There were plenty of birds to see including this male pheasant

Pheasants aren't uncommon on Arthur's Seat but we've rarely had one come so close to us. His colours are really magnificent.

Up above the ravens were performing their aerobatics

one of the ravens turned upside down while we were watching, which is something they often do as part of their displays).

Another member of the crow family, the jackdaw, was checking out nest holes in the walls and trees and gathering in large, noisy groups

While down on Duffingston Loch, even at this distance we could see how angry this male mute swan was about something (click on the picture for a closer look).

 Remember, the Big Garden Birdwatch is coming soon- find out more here.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Coming Soon - Big Garden Birdwatch 26-29 January

The Big Garden Birdwatch is an annual opportunity for people in the UK to watch their garden birds and help the Royal Society of Birds to assess the state of the nation's birdlife.

This year it happens from 26-28 January and you can find out more on the RSPB website here.

If you don't have a garden you can still take part! You can go to a local park or other green space and record the birds you see thee! Some parks organise their own events where you can join in with other people.

If you're in Edinburgh you could start the Big Garden Birdwatch by visiting Gorgie Farm who are offering a whole day of activities, including making bird boxes. Find out more here. You would then have time to also walk the relatively short distance from the farm to Saughton Park to join the Friends of Saughton Park at 2pm for an hour of counting birds in the park. Find out more here.

If you join us in Saughton Park, it's likely we'll see a grey heron (see photo). One could even visit your garden if you have a pond!

Edited to add, actually the Gorgie Farm event is the day after the Saughton Park event, sorry for not checking the dates before posting!

Tuesday, 8 January 2019


Gulls divebomb each other,
squabble over perching rights
on chimney pots,
throw back their heads
in raucous chorus,
rip rubbish sacks to shreds,
steal chicks from nests
and devour them on the roofs

then launch into the sky
to soar on thermals,
sharp white wings
against the blue.

Originally posted for Sunday Scribblings in 2008. 

I also reposted an old poem on my Shapeshifting Green blog, you can read it here.

Monday, 7 January 2019

The Hive by Bee Wilson

 The Hive by Bee Wilson

Subtitled The Story of the Honey Bee and Us, this is a fascinating look at the history of the human relationship with the honey bee. (And yes Bee Wilson's first name really is Bee!).

We're taken on a guided tour of the hive itself and how honey bees organise their lives and space then we are shown the importance of bees and honey to human culture in both practical (agriculture and health) inspirational (ideas used in architecture, gender relations and politics) and symbolism (the bee as a symbol of hard work and as a symbolic giver of life) throughout our history. There are recipes for cakes and hand creams and a comparison of honeys made from different types of flowers.

It's truly an engrossing book and one that's worth re-reading.

The Hive by Bee Wilson published by John Murray (2004)

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Maison de Moggy

It's always lovely to visit Maison de Moggy, Edinburgh's Cat Cafe and here are some photos from our New Year visit.

Phillippe spent most of the time asleep in this hanging basket but woke up for long enough to have his photo taken.

Guillaume let me pet him, though he looks a little disgruntled about it.

Sebastian, Marcel, Alain and Pauline gather for snack time. There's chicken hidden in the snack tray there.

Sebastian and Elodie compete to get the most chicken - Elodie has tiny paws and a great technique so generally gets more chicken than anyone else.

We had to eat our cakes quickly and let the staff remove the plates otherwise Elodie would have eaten the cake too. 

Pauline spent a lot of time hanging about on one of the cat walkways in the air

Sebastian let me pose with him for this photo. And finally here are more photos of Sebastian