Sunday, 30 September 2007

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Probably most people have heard of Frankenstein, though I guess more people have seen one of the films rather than read the book. I've just read the book and thought it was very interesting. It has been called by a lot of people the first science fiction novel. Written during a time period of significant scientific discovery, it points the reader to think about the relationship of humans to their environment and about the responsible use of science. Frankenstein creates a monster and then accepts no responsibility for either its well being or its future actions. The monster in its turn is shown to have clearly started out as having a moral sense but the negative reactions of humans towards it caused it to attack people. Its a book that has a lot to say in today's world of GM science.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Powerful

It's easy to feel that as individuals we're not powerful. That we don't matter in the face of the vested interests of governments and big businesses. That what we do can't make a difference. But it's not true, we can all do our bit, to reduce our impact on the environment, to improve our neighbourhoods, to stand up for injustice. More importantly though we can join together, by all doing our bit, by adding our voices to campaigns and protests, by blogging about what we care about. If we all make our voices heard, then together we are very powerful. If we all make a conscious attempt to live more environmentally friendly lives, then we are even more powerful.

Powerful for Sunday Scribblings

haiku

magpie
waddling along the gutters -
searching.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

First Christmas Cards of the Year

I've made my first Christmas cards for the year, three different robin cards! The background paper is patterned with stamps from Michelle Ward 's Green Pepper Press . The cards are made from old business folders, the robins are cut from Birdlife - the magazine of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Workshop at FREAK event, Edinburgh

I'm hoping to do a workshop on creative responses to environmental issues, with a practical crafting session at this event in Edinburgh. Free and Reactive Edinburgh Art Kollective is holding the event, which is free and will run from 10 -13 October in an old warehouse in the Granton area of the city. The event has an open access policy that will incorporate local residents’ art, performances, a showcase for local bands and DJ’s and also workshops where visitors can learn new skills from circus tricks to clothes customisation, dance to drama. It will be an opportunity for creative expression to become more accessible to everyone from all walks of life and of all age groups.


My workshop should be at around 2pm on the Saturday. I'll report back here to say how it went!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

How to Reduce Plastic Use

Even when I buy lunch from the organic shop near my office, most of the products are wrapped in some form of plastic. Plastic gets everywhere. When its disposed it often finds its way into the sea where it can end up part of the Garbage Patch (please follow that link!). We need to reduce our dependence on plastics, here are some ways to start:

Refuse plastic carrier bags in shops - take your own reusable fabric carrier bag - I have two in my handbag so that even the most unexpected purchase can be carried home without a plastic carrier.

Avoid products that are packaged in plastic

When possible if buying vegetables, avoid putting them in plastic bags. This is easiest with items such as courgettes, which are often bought singly and are relatively clean. If you have a choice use small paper bags to wrap veg in rather than plastic bags. Cosider taking your own reusable produce bags.

Paper bags of course lead to litter too, but paper is biodegradeable and doesn't accumulate in oceans and destroy whole colonies of sea creatures. Ideally minimise all packaging and recycle or reuse whatever packaging materials you can recycle.

Another way to avoid so much packaging is to buy less stuff.

Some blogs committed to reducing use of plastics:

Fake Plastic Fish
Plasticless
Bring Your Own
Conserve Plastic Bags
Make A Bag
Bean Sprouts recently shared Ten Things You Didn't Know About Plastic Bags.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Bookmarks from Reused Materials


Here is a selection of some recent bookmarks I've made from old office folders and photos from magazines etc. I put a handmade bookmark into every book I give as a gift or that I pass on through Bookcrossing.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Aboriginal Folklore

Recently I've been carrying Aboriginal Legends - Animal Tales by AW Reed around in my handbag to read whenever I get a moment. The tales are fascinating, but often seem inexplicable in the way that the different animals interact with each other and with humans. That and the fact that animals often become human and vice versa. There's certainly a closeness to nature inherent in the stories.
I remember seeing an exhibition of Aboriginal art several years ago and again I found it very beautiful and interesting but there were layers of meaning that would take a lot of study for me to unravel. The beautiful Aboriginal film Ten Canoes was showing briefly in Edinburgh and that offered another insight into the Aboriginal culture, concentrating this time on storytelling and the morality of human relationships.

I'm always fascinated by different cultures and its sad that 'progress' so often seems to not only destroy nature but also our connection with nature. We could have a lot to learn from that aspect of aboriginal culture.

Friday, 21 September 2007

My Name is Sei Shonagon

This is a weird co-incidence, I've just finished reading My Name is Sei Shonagon, a wonderful first novel by Jan Blensdorf and then I popped over to Sunday Scribblings to find out what the topic is and its 'Hi, My Name is'. So, a book review.

Sei Shonagon was the tenth century author of The Pillow Book. She is also a modern woman of Japanese American parentage living in Tokyo trying to fit into a society she feels she doesn't really belong to after years in the USA. The modern Sei Shonagon constantly struggles to find beauty and worth in everything around her even when she faces stern and unwelcoming relatives or grave illness.

The novel is simply and beautifully written and reflects the contradictions in Japanese life, the ultra modern fast moving business world set against love of the natural world reflected through haiku poetry, cherry tree viewing and the careful crafting of incenses from natural material. Modern life is often compared to natural processes in a narrative that flows naturally and poetically.

I loved this book and was sad to get to the end. It offers an incredible amount of insight in relatively few pages and stays in the mind after reading.


Hi, My Name Is.... for Sunday Scribblings

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Once Were Fields



Green becomes concrete
for wheels to glide over
quicker.

Inexorable as rainfall
landscape flies past,
transmutes into shopping malls,
office blocks and science parks.

Grey sky reflects in glass houses
and everyone is throwing stones.


Poem previously published in The Journal


The collage is made from 100% recycled magazines and is a detail from a flier, on the reverse of which there is a copy of the poem against the background of a photo of a city street.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

The Who, What and Why of Poetry

Rethabile has some interesting questions on Poefrika. So I thought I'd have a go at answering them:

Who's your hero? Why (Not necessarily a writer -- do not include deities or family)? I really don't think I have a hero as such....

Who's your favourite dead poet? Rebecca Elson. I love all her poems because she brings together science and poetry to shed insight into the meaning of life.

What well-known poet/writer have you met? What was the occasion? I've met several well known poets, mostly at the Scottish Poetry Library.

How do you recognise a bad poem? What are its characteristics? Bad poems come in many forms, including poetry written slavishly following a particular form without understanding what lies below (eg 5-7-5 poems that call themselves haiku but that don't understand what a haiku moment is; villanelles and pantoums where the repitition adds nothing to the meaning and just causes extreme irritation; strangulated grammar for the sake of an end rhyme.)

Why are some poems entitled untitled? What's your take on that? Some poems I think are genuinely untitled and are only found later when the poet has died and are published as 'Untitled'. Haiku never have titles, they're considered unnecessary.

If you decide to answer these question on your blog, why not let me know in the comments so I can come over and visit!

Monday, 17 September 2007

Hard Rain - an environmental exhibition

Hard Rain is an exhibition of photos by Mark Edwards and others alongside the lyrics of Bob Dylan's prophetic song "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall". It's currently showing at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh until 31January 2008. It is a powerful demonstration of the damage we are doing to the earth and should act as a wake-up call to all of us to do our bit to protect the earth before its too late. I did feel that the exhibition lacked ideas for people to take away to put into practice, so some people may have forgotten their outrage by the time they've got home. However its a very moving exhibition and if you're in any of the areas where it is being shown, go and see it.

More information on the exhibition, the accompanying book and the project behind it can be found at the Hard Rain website, which also hosts a mini-debate on the issues raised by the exhibition.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Orkney

We've just got back from a wonderful week in Orkney. We took the train to Aberdeen and then the Northlink ferry to Kirkwall. We enjoyed exploring the island, with its landscape, wildlife and two interesting towns of Kirkwall and Stromness. We also enjoyed eating Orkney ice cream and drinking some of the real ales brewed by the two Orkney based breweries.
I've posted more about our holidayss in the posts below:

Prehistoric Sites
Italian Chapel and Fossil Museum
Sea and Coasts
Wildlife

Orkney - Pre-historic Sites


Orkney is full of prehistoric sites. There are neolithic settlements and stone circles, burial cairns and strange unexplained chambers. We visited the Ring of Brodgar on a suitably misty day. It's wonderful to walk from the smaller Ring of Stenness towards Ring of Brodgar, which first appears on the hilltop in the distance then to finally reach the circle.

We also visited Skara Brae, a wonderfully preserved neolithic settlement, which was built partly sunk into the ground (interesting to think that current ideas on building environmentally friendly buildings sunk into the ground are presented as so radical) or possibly became gradually buried by sand-dunes (which may be an explanation for the apparent sudden abandonment of the settlement).






Orkney - Italian Chapel & Fossil Museum


The Italian Chapel on the tiny island of Lamb Holm was built in 1943 by Italian prisoners of war in two Nissan Huts, using largely scrap materials. The chapel is still used for services.

Travelling further south there is the Fossil Museum on the island of Burray. This is a fascinating museum, downstairs is dedicated to fossils, many of which have been found in Orkney. We found some this fossil ferns on the beach at Marwick Head:


The upstairs rooms of the Fossil museum are dedicated to the history of Orkney during the world wars.

The islands of Lamb Holm and Burray are attached to Orkney Mainland by the Churchill Barriers, sea defences dating from the Second World War, now serving as useful causeways, though dangerous to cross in 'adverse weather conditions'.

Orkney Sea and Coast



Orkney has stunning seascapes, cliffs and coastlines. It all looked particularly dramatic in the wild winds that were sweeping the area while we were there. Both these photos were taken at Yesnaby which is on the west coast of the main island in Orkney.

Orkney Wildlife

Orkney is a wonderful place for wildlife! We were too late in the year to see the large colonies of seabirds on the cliffs, but we did see good numbers of fulmars flying very close to us and gannets diving into the sea. On the coast we also saw ravens, red breasted mergansers, widgeon, eider and various species of gulls. Inland we had a wonderful few minutes of watching a short eared owl hunting over a reed bed. Swallows and house martins were still flying around, making it feel still like late summer despite the distinctly autumnal weather. We saw fields full of curlew, their haunting calls filling the air and lapwings that look like giant butterflies in flight. We also saw hooded crows and lots of pied wagtails. We may also have seen a female hen harrier, but I'm not sure.

As well as birds we saw seals, a hare and lots of rabbits, some of them living in burrows on the edge of high cliffs. Just look at where their burrows are in this photo!
Unfortunately we didn't see any dolphins, porpoises or whales. Nor did we see otters though we saw plenty of evidence of them, including collections of fishbones on rocks and these adorable little footprints:

Friday, 7 September 2007

Moonlit rabbit


This is my first project involving the felt I made from the shed fur of our rabbit Anya. As you can see from the last post about the felt, the rabbit face formed spontaneously in the felt making process, I've just added a button as an eye. The moon is the foil insert from a coffee jar, the wispy cloud is more rabbit felt and the black satin is from an old skirt that I had shortened.

No paint but a limited palette for Inspire Me Thursday

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Tree Wardens

I recently noticed that a tree near where I work has had significant amounts of bark stripped from its trunk. It looks ugly and is harming the tree and now that so much of the bark is ripped off it only encourages bored youngsters (and excitable dogs!) to rip more of it off.

My concern for this tree lead me to do some research and I found the Tree Wardens, a group of volunteers who research and care for local trees in Edinburgh and work with schools and community groups to put together projects to help people understand more about trees and how to care for them. This sounds like something I might be interested in doing, I'll need to look into that!

The Tree Council organises Tree Wardens across the UK.

Blogger Reflection Award

I'm delighted that Alex (Writer on Board) of Aeroman101 has awarded me the Blogger Reflection Award. This is an award for bloggers who have inspired AND encouraged your blogging. I will reflect and try to decide who to pass it on to, but I suspect that I won't. Like the Thinking Blogger Award, this one should be awarded to everyone who I link to or visit and all of you who visit here. So consider yourself awarded!

Poetry and Compost

Nia recently wrote a long and interesting post about composting which included my poem End of Life as We Know It in English and in Spanish. Why not pop over and have a read?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Green Clothes

I'm a dedicated second hand clothes person - all my clothes are second hand apart from underwear, which I buy either from high street stores or from the Natural Collection, which has a selection of organic underwear. I find though (whisper!) that organic underwear doesn't come in such appealing styles and loses shape and colour quicker than underwear bought in the high street. Some high street stores are starting to stock organic cotton now which is a great sign!

I only buy clothes when I need them (though of course need is always relative!). I like to mix and match my clothes, so that the same item can fit many different occasions. For example, I have two short cheongsam dresses that I can either wear with tights to go clubbing or with trousers to go out to a nice restaurant. By mixing and matching items its possible to get more wear out of them. Whenever I get tired of an item of clothing, I think whether there are other ways I could wear it before I give it away.

I've also experimented with customising clothing. I'm not very good and sewing so I've kept these experiments basic but it's fun to liven up a dress with some beading or gloves with some lace.

Shoes are always a problem for me. Second hand shoes have usually taken on the shape (and smell) of someone else's feet and don't fit properly. I have bought very lightly worn shoes second hand but usually find myself in high street shoe shops, unable to make a decision. I don't have many painrs of shoes - one pair of sandals, one pair of hiking boots, one pair of every day flat lace ups, two pairs of smart boots and a pair of summer shoes. All except the hiking boots are made of leather, I've never found an alternative to leather though being avegetarian I'd love to. I'm very fussy about shoes, I like something that stays on my foot, supports my ankle properly and doesn't look really clompy. That limits me anywhere let alone in the more restricted ethical shoe marketplace. I get my shoes repaired as often as possible - my favourite boots have been reheeled three times but some shoes can't be repaired so easily, my last pair of sandals had lasted five years but this year fell apart (a rabbit may have had something to do with this!) and I haven't found a good pair since (thankfully I didn't need sandals with the cold, wet summer we had this year!).

Has anyone got any recommendations of good 'green' shoes in the UK? Plus if you've got any other ideas for green clothes buying, feel free to share them here.

(I have edited this in response to the comments below.)

Monday, 3 September 2007

Save the Sumatran Rhino



We're heading towards what may be a period of mass extinctions of plants and animals. It's easy to feel helpless when we read of yet another animal that may soon no longer exist. Currently the nuffnang (Asian blog advertising community) is asking bloggers to raise awareness of one such animal, the Sumatran Rhino. In January 2006, World Wildlife Fund Malaysia benefited from a donation of RM5,000,000 over a period of 5 years from Honda to save the Sumatran Rhino. The project marked the first corporate sponsorship dedicated to the Sumatran Rhino. (These days, corporate sponsorship is a major source of funding for vital work like this, though as a former fundraiser I am well aware of the ethical dilemmas most charities feel are posed by accepting money from large corporations!). If you want to raise awareness and help to save the Sumatran Rhino, embed the Save the Rhinos logo on your blog, write about the Sumatran Rhino or support the initiative in whatever way you deem fit. The more people know about the plight of this animal the more hope there is for its future.

haiku

herring gull
stamps on the grass -
worms rise.


I love watching gulls do this, they look as though they're dancing. I've heard it said that worms mistake the drumming for rain and that's why they rise (and then get eaten), but as I often see gulls dancing in the rain, there may be another explanation!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Green Christmas Meme

Even for someone who has already made a diary and a calendar for next year, this seems too soon, but A New Green Earth has tagged me with the Green Christmas Meme.
Here are the questions I had to answer and my answers.
* What is your favorite Christmas gift? Anything that is thoughtfully chosen, fair traded or locally made. I love hand-made gifts, but don't get them very often. I remember when I was a student, a friend gave me a gift of home made jam once, that was wonderful. Our family have a lovely tradition now of giving each other second hand books for Christmas. Another gift idea I like is donating money to charity through schemes such as Oxfam Unwrapped, though some of these schemes are better than others and no goats please!


* What is your best memory of Christmas? I spent two Christmases in Malawi, we had wonderful parties and one year spent Christmas on the beach at Lake Malawi. Recently I've had lovely romantic Christmases with my partner. Favourite childhood Christmas memory - building an igloo in the garden.

* Depending on where you live do you have a hot or cold Christmas? Cold, but its warming up due to climate change. (No igloo building these days!)

* Would you prefer to try the opposite weather at least just once? During my two years in Malawi Christmas was way too hot.

* What do you prefer in a tree? We decorate house plants!

* What is your favorite Carol? In the Bleak mid-winter.

* What is your favorite Christmas Dinner? Nut roast, potatoes, sprouts with home made spicy tomato sauce followed by homemade trifle made with organic fruit salad and Southern Comfort.

* Do you wear a Santa Hat at Christmas? Sometimes a green one, but it always falls off

* Have you ever seen Santa delivering your gifts? No but when my parents left mince pies and sherry out for him and a carrot for the reindeer, they had always disappeared the next day


So how about you? If you want to join in the very early Christmas Meme, green or not, just post your answers in your blog and let me know in the comments!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Rocking Girl Blogger Award

I'm delighted that Na of Shadows and Clouds has nominated me for the Rocking Girl Blogger Award! The Rockin Girl Blogger award originated with Roberta Ferguson here. I now get to nominate up to five Rocking Girl Bloggers. It's difficult to choose as there are so many great blogs out there, but I decided to keep it to just two who really do rock:

Abby, aka Abzdragon, from Geek Tragedy is a young rocking poet already getting published and performing her work - without stage fright she tells me! I wish I'd started out in poetry with so much confidence!

Michelle at GPP Street Team sets rocking Crusades - art journalling challenges on topics such as 'My Rockstar Moment', 'Tattoos' and 'Playlists'.

Why not check them out!