Saturday, 30 June 2012

Children and Nature in Film

There's a lot of talk these days about nature deficit disorder, the idea that many children (and adults) today don't get enough contact time with nature and suffer for that in terms of poorer physical, mental and emotional well being.

Two films in the Edinburgh International Film Festival focus on children who spend a lot of time in nature, but that doesn't mean they don't have problems!

Of Skies and Earth focusses in the lives of four young Filipino boys who have left home for various reasons and are living in an abandoned hut in the countryside. They seem very self sufficient but need to go into the nearby town to look for work. They really struggle to make any money at all until they wheedle their way into working at the local slaughterhouse (cue some gruesome scenes for the vegetarians amongst us). This doesn't all go according to plan and the boys find themselves drifting into petty crime and sniffing solvents. What seems at the beginning like an almost idyllic life is shown to be a gateway into something much less appealing.

There's an interesting conversation at one point between two of the boys, the younger one of whom wants to stop looking for work in the city and return to their mountain home where it's beautiful and peaceful but the older one disagrees and says the city is better, as there are more people and more jobs (though those people are unfriendly and the jobs hard to find!). 

Kid Thing is a disturbing film about a child who is basically out of control. Annie lives on a goat farm in the USA, with her father, who pays her very little attention. She spends a lot of time in the local woods, where her favourite activities seem to be destroying trees and squashing insects. One day she comes across a woman who has fallen down a well. Is this Annie's opportunity to learn some positive attitudes towards other people?


These films are part of Edinburgh International Film Festival. There are no more showings of either film.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings of these films. 

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Friday, 29 June 2012

Walking and Transformation and thoughts on nature

I just saw What is this Film called Love? at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. It's basically a walking tour of Mexico City made by Edinburgh based film-maker Mark Cousins with his imaginary companion the late Russian film-maker Sergei Eisenstein. Along the way Cousins makes remembered diversions to Monument Valley (USA), Moscow and Edinburgh, quoting poetry at various points from Frank O'Hara and Norman MacCaig.

It's a film about the transformational value of walking, with some interesting ideas about shot composition in film-making and some magnificent scenery. Unfortunately I found elements of the film irritating and pretentious (particularly the voice-over), which prevented me from fully appreciating the ideas in the film until I left the cinema.

Most interesting perhaps was the contrast made between Pushkin's concept of indifferent nature - the idea that nature and human life are separate and nature is a bystander to everything that goes on in the human world and Eisenstein's idea of non-indifferent nature, in which humans and nature are closely interconnected. (I've looked for references to these particular thinkers' ideas on these themes on the web but haven't found any yet, it's a topic I may come back to).

It's certainly a film that will keep you thinking long after you've left the cinema, and may even inspire you to walk around your own city with your eyes more wide open than usual! 

What is this Film called Love? is part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, you can see it at 19:35, 30 June in Cineworld 5.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and saw a free press screening of this film.

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks to other pages where you can find out more.

Riding Zorro and a Link to a Poem

I'm guessing rodeo has its roots in the need to tame horses so they could be ridden and used in farmwork but as a sport it always seems arrogant and cruel.

Ethical considerations about rodeo and animal welfare aside, Riding Zorro is a beautifully made film. A biopic of rodeo's most famous horse, Zorro, the film is a collage of old, scratchy film, interviews with horse-riders who tried to ride Zorro, and old still photographs woven together imaginatively and creatively. All to a wonderful sound track of guitar music.

Zorro was a spirited, untameable horse and this is a wonderful tribute to him. The only criticism is of the subtitling, which is particularly poor.

Zorro in his lifetime inspired poetry and song, so I had thought of writing this review as a poem. Instead you'll just have to make do with a link to my poem Beach Hut, which was published today on Every Day Poets.

Unfortunately there are no further public screenings of Riding Zorro at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of Riding Zorro.


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Animals in Captivity on Screen

Postcards from the Zoo is wonderfully odd, filmed mostly in a zoo in Jakarta, in Indonesia. The zoo is also a funfair and has a lot of life size sculptures of large animals. In fact, at first, when the scene showed pelicans feeding amongst the feet of statues of elephants I thought for a moment that we were seeing a zoo of the future, when, all animals being extinct, zoos become sculpture parks.

Lana grew up in the zoo, having been abandoned there by her father and lives there with zoo employees, homeless people and some people who love the zoo so much they can't bear to leave. Lana is really busy round the zoo and has a wonderful rapport with the animals, there are lovely scenes of her and the giraffe (and whatever your views on animals in captivity, there is something immensely touching about seeing a trusting relationship between human and animal.)

One day everyone except official zoo employees is evicted from living in the zoo. It's a surprise to the viewer that Lana isn't an official employee, but she too is evicted and runs off with a strange magician who dresses as a cowboy. They do magic tricks for people until the magician himself disappears, leaving Lana lost in the wilds of Jakarta and offered lodging in a massage parlour on condition that she becomes a worker there. She seems to adapt quite well from washing down large mammals to massaging large men. but it is clear that she feels that the zoo is her natural habitat.

Bestiaire also focuses on animals in captivity. It is filmed mostly in Quebec's Parc Safari, both in the fields where the animals wander with a lot of freedom and the cramped internal cages, with concrete floors and metal bars. It is very upsetting to see zebras, lions and hyenas, animals used to wandering the vast African savannahs bashing themselves against cage bars.

The film looks at animals through the eyes of artists, zoo-keepers, zoo visitors, taxidermists and of course the camera. It is a mostly beautiful meditation of our relationship with captive animals, a very thought provoking film.

These films are part of Edinburgh International Film Festival and can be seen at:


Postcards from the Zoo: 20:00, 29 June; 15:30, 1 July both in Filmhouse 2.

unfortunately there are no more public screenings of Bestiaire.

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attend free press screenings of the films I review.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Vivan Las Antipodas

Antipodes are places and peoples that are diametrically opposite each other on the earth. This beautiful film contemplates life in four antipodal pairs - Russia and Chile, China and Argentina, Botswana and Hawaii, and Spain and New Zealand.As the earth is mostly ocean, there are few antipodes where both are inhabited. I was interested to note that of the antipodes in the film only one is really urban, three are Spanish speaking and two are English speaking (three if you count Botswana, but the people in the film spoke Setswana).

The most different antipodes are rural Argentina (where two men look after a bridge over a river and chat between themselves and the drivers that use the bridge) and Shanghai in China where the crowds bustle through the streets.

The most similar antipodal pair is Russia (where a mother and daughter pick fruits and chop wood by Lake Baikal) and Chile (where a shepherd travels with his herds (along with the cutest and silliest sheep dog ever)).

Condors fly above the mountains in Chile while the shepherd takes his cats for a walk.  The rocks on the Spanish mountains are home to a wonderful array of insects and lizards just as the countryside of Botswana is full of lions, giraffes and elephants. Lava from an active volcano flows down the hillsides in Hawaii. A whale is sadly beached in New Zealand.

(Parts of the film are shown upside down or sideways, which adds to the feeling of antipodes but which can be unsettling to the eyes!)

This is a wonderful film for losing yourself in meditation of the beauty of the world and the interconnections between everywhere. Hopefully, if you get to see the film, you'll be able to see the whole thing. Unlike us! There was a power cut just ten minutes from the end of the film!

Unfortunately also there are no more public screenings of Vivan las Antipodas! at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.



Official Best of the Fest

Edinburgh International Film Festival has just announced its Best of the Fest list (which as far as I'm aware is based on ticket sales). All films are screening for £6 (£5 concession) so here is you chance to see festival films at normal prices:


Showing at Cineworld:  
BRAVE (11:00) 
DR SEUSS’ THE LORAX (13:15)
FLICKER (12:10) which I may review tomorrow
7 DAYS IN HAVANA (12:20) which i may review tomorrow
BORROWED TIME (12:30);  
FRED (14:20);  
DAY OF THE FLOWERS (14:30);  
JACKPOT (14:50);  
LIFE JUST IS (16:00);  
THE IMPOSTER (16:25);  
FUTURE MY LOVE (16:25) you can read my review here 
GRABBERS (16:45);  
CALIFORNIA SOLO (18:15);  
AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER?(18:30);  
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (18:45);  
SHADOW DANCER (18:55); 
GUINEA PIGS (20:30);  
DRAGON (WU XIA) (20:45) 
PUSHER (21:00).
 
Showing at Filmhouse 

GOD BLESS AMERICA (11:15)
RENT-A-CAT (20:30) which I have bought a ticket for, having missed the press screenings and the public screenings being sold out! 


I'll probably do my own Best of the Fest post at the end of the festival. 

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more! 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Postcards from the Zoo

One of the films I saw today was Postcards from the Zoo, which is filmed in a zoo in Indonesia. I'm going to review it tomorrow alongside Bestiare, another film about animals in captivity which I'll be seeing tomorrow.

However, Postcards from the Zoo surprisingly has a lot of parallels with another film that I saw today, Attractive Illusion (which I review on Over Forty Shades, here).

The heroine of Postcards from the Zoo, Lana is forced out of her home the zoo, in much the same way as the characters in Attractive Illusion are forced to live their homeland of Nigeria. Similar to Enor and Amen, who become prostitutes in Attractive Illusion, Lana is pushed into working in a massage parlour where, the implication is, she offers services beyond massage.

Watching so many films, it really is interesting where unexpected parallels can be found! 

These films are showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and you can see them at:

Postcards from the Zoo: 20:00, 29 June; 15:30, 1 July both in Filmhouse 2.

Attractive Illusion 20:00, 30 June Cineworld 11

unfortunately there are no more public screenings of Bestiaire.

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attend free press screenings of the films I review.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Memory, the Future and Experimental Films

When I lived in Malawi, I lived close to the Mozambique border, a border that it was then considered dangerous to cross because of the war going on. So I was intrigued to see the film Dress Rehearsal for Utopia, which is set partly in Mozambique.

This is very definitely an experimental film, a cine-poem perhaps, along the lines of Man Ray's Emak Bakia (which was featured in In Search of Emak Bakia, which I reviewed here). To start with I let the Dress Rehearsal wash over me and I was drawn in by various scenes - vivid green grass and red sand; a dog playing on a beach; historical footage from a classroom where students were being taught about Revolution and footage of fish and a hermit crab in an aquarium. Unfortunately though I found myself irritated by the soundtrack, which although it occasionally featured some lively Mozambiquan music and lovely birdsong, was mostly made up of a weird whirring sound like an audio cassette being wound backwards. No narrative and barely any dialogue.

The film centres on the death of the film-maker's father in Venzuela and is made up of flashbacks of memories of Mozambique and Venice. The jumping between scenes and the lack of narrative work successfully evoke the feeling of memories that haunt us. However, these were memories that too often felt like home movies and over an hour of someone else's home movies with no narrative to provide context can become a little tedious.

If you love experimental cinema, this is one for you, there are moments of real beauty in here, but if you like narrative and story, this may not be your style of film. 

Future My Love is also an experimental film but one with a lot more narrative. The director Maja Borg follows in the footsteps of her Italian lover Nadya Kazan as she looks for a new way of life and a new way of thinking in the USA. The trail leads to the Venus Project, where Jacques Fresco explores enthusiastically and optimistically ways of creating a new environmentally friendly lifestyle through the use of technology. Although I don't agree with all his ideas, I'm a lot more cynical about technology for a start (and I was surprised that a so called sustainable building had a flushing toilet instead of a composting one!) Fresco is certainly an inspiring and thought-provoking thinker.

The film weaves the personal and the political together, to an extent that is rarely tried. Black and white scenes of Kazan being mysterious and wandering through the world are inter-cut with scenes at the Venus Project and with the related Technocratic Movement. Borg's poetic narrative combines her thoughts about her relationship with Kazan with her thoughts about potential economic and ecological collapse.

It's not always a straight forward film and the over emphasis on technology as a way of solving ecological problems may not fit with every environmentalist's world view, but the thought provoking ideas about how to deal with economic collapse are certainly very timely.



Both these films are part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and you can see them at:

Dress Rehearsal for Utopia:  20:00, 28 June; 19:00, 29 June, both in Filmhouse 3
Future My Love (directed by Maja Borg) 20:30, 29 June, Cineworld 5; 16:35, 1 July Cineworld 11


Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings for these films.


As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more.


Here, There

Here There is a series of three interlinked stories that focus on young Chinese people. There is the reindeer herder in the mountains whose brother is a young chef in the city of Shanghai whose boss has a son studying in Paris where he is taken under the wing of an older Chinese emigre.

Each of the main characters is in some sense making a new start and together their stories offer insights into three different aspects of modern Chinese life.

Life in the city and as an emigrant is portrayed as perhaps the modern choices but they don't seem (at least to me!) to offer anything more than life as a reindeer herder. The herder's son seems to want to hedge his bets, wanting to go to a Sports University become a police officer or a soldier but to remain as a reindeer herder. I must say with the stunning scenery, the simple (though hard) life and the adorable reindeer, I can understand the appeal of the herding life. Certainly when compared to the struggles of life in the city.


The stories are all low key but engaging and the viewer is drawn into the characters lives, particularly as they are so interwoven together. Despite the interconnectedness of all the characters though, there is a constant sense of the distance between them all.

Here There (directed by Lu Sheng) is part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and you can see it at 20:50, 28 June Cineworld 11.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and saw a free press screening of this film.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Modest Reception

Modest Reception is a road movie set in the spectacularly beautiful, snowy mountains of Iran. We travel with a man and a woman (husband and wife? brother and sister? colleagues? they change their story every time they meet someone hew so we never find out their relationship to each other!) as they hand out sacks of money to random strangers they meet along the way and take photos of the recipients before moving on.

Is this a pure act of charity or is there something more bizarre or even sinister going on? As the journey progresses, the pair make odd demands on the people they give the money to, so it seems like a test of people's honesty or their scruples. People's reactions vary wildly, from the spiritual man who doesn't want the money at all, to the guy who picks up the cash and then denies having even seen it.

The film offers insights into the hardships of daily life in this remote part of Iran and provokes the viewer into thinking about their own relationship with money and consumerism and there is no resolution to the story, as at the end we still don't know the pair's motives for their actions.

Modest Reception is part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. You can see it at:

21:20, 27 June in Cineworld 12
18:45, 28 June in Cineworld 13

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attend free press screenings.

Poetry in Film

I'm always fascinated by how poetry is portrayed or incorporated into film. This morning at Edinburgh International Film Festival, I saw two very different films that had poetry in common.

Demain? follows the passionate and tragically short life of Uruguayan poet Delmira Agustini, portraying her as a tortured genius. Her family were a significant influence on her artistic development, her habit of dancing by herself inherited directly from her father, while her mother smothered her, talking over her any time she got to talk to one of the many famous poets who dropped into her home to pay her homage. Delmira at long last won her parents' approval for her marriage to the man she loved, only to find the marriage stifling and boring, despite the passion. The film is wonderfully filmed with beautifully composed shots, and scenes being in turn naturalistic and stylised, though the scene with the dancing cleaners was overly stylised and didn't work for me. More effective is the use of lighting as a strobe effect during one passionate scene between Delmira and her husband. I also particularly enjoyed the soundtrack, made up largely of birdsong, wind, thunder and Delmira's piano playing. In fact there was more of her piano playing than her poetry in the film, which left me wanting to find and read her work.

Shortly afterwards, I saw In Search of Emak Bakia, a documentary that set out to explore the making of Man Ray's film Emak Bakia, which was probably one of the first cine-poems, a poem with little narrative, that depended on the visual image to create a unique poetry. Emak Bakia is a Basque phrase meaning Leave Me Alone and part of the remit of the documentary is to trace the origin of this name, was it found on a gravestone or was it the name of a house? The documentary is also a wonderful meditation on the serendipity of creativity, juxtaposing scenes from Man Ray's films with scenes filmed during the making of the documentary and finding poetry in the every day. A herd of pigs sleep all cuddled together to wake and run around all together as the cock crows dawn; a plastic glove floats along the road; a series of photos of Basque house names is collaged together to create a poem and the sea is an ever-changing but constant presence. The sountrack is a collage too, made up of found sounds (which can tend to be fairly discordant, not easy listening at all!), tracks from a band called Emak Bakia and tracks from a CD found at Man Ray's grave. We meet intriguing characters, including the owner of an Italian vintage clothing store called Emak Bakia and a Rumanian Princess who is a biologist specialising in ants as well as a champion table tennis player and shot putter. Running like a thread through the film is a sense of loss, lost words, lost names and  lost worlds. Stay until after the credits though and one of the lost names is restored to its rightful place in a beautifully satisfying resolution to this remarkable film.


Demain? (directed by Christine Laurent) shows at: 12:50. 30 June in Cineworld 5.


In Search of Emak Bakia (directed by Oskar Alagria) shows at: 20:45, 27 June in Filmhouse 1 and 18:20, 29 June in Cineworld 11

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival andattend free press screenings.



Sunday, 24 June 2012

Back from up North

We've had a lovely week away up in Sutherland, in the far north west of Scotland. We had lovely weather, warm and sunny almost all the time! The scenery is stunning up there and we saw loads of wildlife, including golden eagles, red deer, orcas and the best ever view of an otter!

I'll be reviewing the Edinburgh International Film Festival here for the next week but after that I'll post about our holiday!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh International Film Festival starts tomorrow! It looks like another excellent programme and I'm looking forward to reviewing selected films here and on Over Forty Shades from next Monday onwards.

You can see the programme here and book tickets here.

Tickets for most films cost £9 (£7.50 concession). Howard from Belvedere Mountain Express complained about this on a previous post. However I think it's pretty reasonable value when you consider that of the cinemas in walking distance of where I live charge: £7.30; £7.50 or £8.70 for a standard adult ticket for an evening screening. If you choose your films wisely at the Film Festival you can see brilliant films that never come back to the screen and for that I think it's well worth paying up to an extra £1.70.

Admittedly I do have a press pass and will be viewing more films than I would probably do otherwise. I can't make the press screening of RentaNeko unfortunately, and may buy a ticket (if there are any left!) for one of the public screenings.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Monday, 18 June 2012

National Reycle Week

National Recycle Week starts today in the UK. This year the campaign is encouraging people to recycle more plastic bottles, though of course also trying to raise awareness of all forms of recycling.

You can find out more at the Recycle Now website.

You can find out what's happening near you here.

If you have a garden or balcony, Bottle Bird Feeders can supply all you need to transform used plastic bottles into bird feeders.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can find our more.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Terns and other birds

Terns are beautiful, graceful birds closely related to gulls. They're summer visitors to Scotland and I don't see them that often. When I do see them, they tend to by flying at some distance away and it's hard to tell which species they are!

On Thursday, one of the rare days of good weather we've had over the past couple of months, I visited Musselburgh Lagoons. I was delighted to see 26 Sandwich terns, sitting nicely on one of the lagoons and keeping quite still so I could fully appreciate the little yellow tips to their black beaks!

I was also pleased to see four reed buntings in nearby fields. The males of this species are very handsome birds and have a nice little song.In the same fields meadow pipits were flying up from the fences singing their flight songs then falling back down again. Skylarks were singing overhead. Skylarks are an iconic species of British farmland and are declining hugely so it's exciting to know places near Edinburgh where they can still be regularly heard.

There were 100s of eider ducks in the estuary of the nearby River Esk and I saw three females with a creche of over twenty ducklings that were all diving into the water and then bobbing up again like corks, making a cute little sound as they did so.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can find out more.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Save the Planet - Drink Organic

That's the slogan of the Black Isle Brewery, an organic microbrewery located on (unsurprisingly) the Black Isle, near Inverness in Scotland.

So I'm currently trying to save the world by drinking their Goldeneye ale, which is a delicious golden ale with quite a floral taste.

Like a few other Black Isle beers, the Goldeneye is named after a bird, in this case the beautiful goldeneye duck

Obviously, you can't save the world just by drinking a couple of bottles of organic beer, but it is a step in the right direction.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more. 



Friday, 15 June 2012

Writing update

Creative Ink Writing Journal have just posted their winners for May and I'm delighted that my poem Sleep Disturbed  won the poetry competition!

*
Every Day Poets are very well organised and post their forthcoming poems for the month ahead  - I'm looking forward to my poem Beach Hut being featured on 29 June!

*
Fortunates is a wonderful website, a very clever concept that incorporates a random reading generator, check it out here! You never know quite what you're going to get, but sometime in July they'll be adding a couple of my pieces to the mix!


As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other websites where you can find out more. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Foraging for Breakfast and Spying on Sparrowhawks!

Yesterday was a lovely day, warm and sunny. I had breakfast at Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens at a lively event organised by the Garden's Edible Gardening Project.

Breakfast was delicious with elderflower cordial, muffins made with herbs foraged from the Garden's herb garden, veggie sausages with foraged salad and red clover tea!

Then I joined a short foraging walk round the herb garden with the Garden's Education Officer, Greg Kenicer. He showed us a variety of plants that are either edible or can be used for medical or household purposes. We smelt a lot of herbs (including the vile smelling woundwort which used to be used to dress wounds), tasted a few of them (including pignuts, which are difficult to dig up and taste like water chestnut, and the leaves of various species of vetch, which taste a bit like peas, not surprisingly as they're from the pea family) and were warned off several others that are inedible or toxic.It really did inspire me to read through my copy of Food for Free and decide on things I could forage while I'm on my weekly walk along the Water of Leith. Though in reality I know I'm unlikely to ever forage anything more than the occasional blackberry and raspberry or even wild strawberry!

It was a such a lovely way to start the day that I returned to the Botanics in the evening for a fascinating presentation about the Garden's resident sparrowhawks from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group. There are apparently about 27 pairs of sparrowhawks nesting in Edinburgh, two of them in the Botanic Gardens. This year one of the breeding pairs gave up on their nest even before they'd built it while the second have just hatched their fourth chick. The birds are now filmed 24 hours a day and you can watch them live here. RSPB staff and volunteers are at hand at the Botanics John Hope Gateway between 1and 4pm Wednesday to Sunday to discuss the birds.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Signs of Animals at Play, Gorgie Farm

I popped into Gorgie City Farm the other day. I always like to see this sign at the entrance.

And indeed the animals were at play, including Driftwood, who was dancing away

until he decided to hide behind the fence.



Then I made friends with a lovely little lamb.



Then I bought some fruit and veg from the well stocked and reasonably priced farm stall.

For Signs Signs

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Fictional Bunny Update

Yesterday, I invited you to nominate your bunnies to star in the novel and short story I'm writing. It might be useful to outline the stories the bunnies will feature in!

The novel features a young woman who, with her family and community, is a climate change refugee moving into an island community in an independent (and flooded) Scotland. The story follows the fortunes of the two communities as they try to find ways to live and work together. Rabbits are given as gifts to the new arrivals.

The short story started off as a sub plot of the novel. It focuses on a woman from the Scottish island featured in the novel as she studies at the International University in Lanark, the new capital of an independent (and flooded!) Scotland. She adopts a rabbit from one of her colleagues.

I'm expecting to finish the short story in a week or so and then will re-edit it so that the bunny character reflects the appropriate winning bunny.

I'm expecting the novel to take a lot longer, but will keep you up to date with progress!

Note that in both novel and short story, some rabbits are eaten as food, but the winning bunnies will be well cared for pets!

You can nominate your bunny here.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Monday Bunday - does your bunny want to be a star?

As you may remember, last November I took part in NaNoWriMo and wrote a 50 000 word draft of a novel. Earlier this year I decided to significantly rewrite it and am now working on it as a novel and a related short story. Each of which feature bunnies!

So this is where you come in. If you have a bunny that would like to feature in my novel or my short story then let me know!

If your bunny wants to be a star, please follow these instructions carefully. These rules will help me to cast the bunny stars and to represent your bunny as accurately as possible if chosen!

Please leave a comment below or on a related Facebook update (Not on Twitter, you'll need more than 140 characters!) and tell me:

a) why your bunny wants to feature in my work
b) how you chose your bunny's name
c) how your bunny behaves when very happy
d) your bunny's favourite food
e) your bunny's naughtiest habit

If you think I might not be familiar with your bunny, please also leave a link to a photo!

You can nominate a bonded bunny pair in which case you need to answer all the questions for both bunnies and make it clear they are interested in appearing together. You can nominate as many bunnies as you want but only one (individual or bonded pair) will be chosen from each human who nominates.You can nominate a bunny who has passed over the Rainbow Bridge but please make this clear in your comments.

In return, if your bunny (or bonded bunny pair) is chosen to star in my novel:

your bunny will feature in the novel
you will receive a copy of the final draft of the novel
your bunny may be featured in the cover art of the novel (subject to it being published)
you will be mentioned in the acknowledgements in the novel (subject to it being published)
you will receive a signed copy of the novel (subject to it ever being published)

if your bunny (or bonded bunny pair) is chosen to star in my short story:

your bunny will feature in the short story

you will receive a copy of the final draft of the short story
you will be sent a link to the short story if it is ever published

Unfortunately I can't guarantee fame or fortune for you or your bunny.

If anything isn't clear, just ask! I'll make a decision in about a month....

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Bridges across Braid Burn

This is a lovely new bridge over the Braid Burn in the Hermitage of Braid. It's great to have a proper bridge again after months of a shaky temporary structure (that I don't think I ever got round to photographing). It's great too that they've made it accessible for people in wheelchairs, except that, as you may be able to see in the left hand side of the photo, at the other side of the bridge there's a steep set of stairs (which leads to a long steep climb up the hill!). So, not sure what you're supposed to do if you get onto the bridge in your wheelchair!


This is a bridge over the Braid Burn in Braidburn Valley Park, which we visited yesterday.

For Sunday Bridges

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Braidburn Valley Park

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I love the Hermitage of Braid, the local nature reserve along the Braid Burn. It's perhaps surprising then that we've never before visited the nearby Braidburn Valley Park, a community park along the Braid Burn (one of several parks in Edinburgh that run alongside rivers and streams in the city, I've previously blogged about Burdiehouse Burn Park and the Figgate Park).

Braidburn Valley Park is very pretty with views towards the Pentland Hills.

In 1935 Girl Guides planted cherry trees in the shape of a guiding trefoil, these trees are still there today making a nice shady area, though we couldn't see the trefoil shape!

While we were wandering round we saw blackbirds, robins and house sparrows. We know there were also more unusual birds around as we heard a willow warbler and a whitethroat, though we didn't see either of them! It definitely pays to learn birdsong!

We later walked into the Morningside area of Edinburgh, where we saw these wonderful poppies!



Friday, 8 June 2012

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

This is a wonderfully rich novel following piano tuner Edgar Drake as he travels to the interior of Burma to tune a piano. This is 1886, the piano belongs to Major Anthony Carroll, an enigmatic British officer and medical doctor. Edgar has an eventful time getting to Carroll's home and is then won over by the beauty of the place and of Carroll's mysterious companion.


The novel is full of insight into the Burma of the time, British colonial ideology and also the value of individualism vs national policy.


Anthony Carroll proves himself to be very much in tune with the locals, he is always prepared to learn from local herbal cures for illnesses (and leads Edgar on botanical expeditions) which probably made him way ahead of his time.


I was very drawn into the narrative and descriptions in this book. It is also a very good example of a book that is not overtly about an environmental theme but through one character (here the Major and his interest in local botany) manages to cover quite a lot of ground about nature and the environment and hopefully can reach people who are not 'interested' in such things.

I reviewed this as part of Brighton Blogger's Reading Challenge 2012

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

More Flowers

 Yellow Flag iris, Blackford Pond
Forget-me-nots, buttercups and red campions, Hermitage of Braid 

for Nature Notes


Monday, 4 June 2012

Yellow Flowers and Dipper Families

There are lots of these yellow daisies in Colinton and Craiglockart Dells (Water of Leith) just now. 
Here's a neat hideaway for a young dipper! Click on the photo to get a better view! I saw two families of dippers on the river today.
Several buttercup meadows too! 

For Nature Notes

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Coming Soon - Edinburgh International Film Festival

The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs this year from 20 June - 1 July. As last year, I have a press pass, which I hope to be able to make full use of! To get myself into practice, I've posted a some film reviews recently in this blog and over on my Over Forty Shades blog, you can read them by following the links below:

Free Men.

Robert Mugabe - What Happened?

Even the Rain.

I thought that last year's film festival was the best ever - the highest number of films that I had ever wanted to see in a festival and the fewest disappointments in those I did see. This year's programme looks to be equally promising, here are just some of the films that most appeal to me (just follow the links to find out details and screening times):

Bestiaire - a meditation on the relationship between humans, animals and the environment

Demain? - the life story of the Uruguayan poet Delmira Agustini

Fukishima: Memories of the Lost Landscape.

Future My Love - an exploration of alternatives to monetary capitalism

It's the Earth Not the Moon - life on a tiny island in the Azores

No Man's Zone  and Nuclear Nation - two more documentaries about Fukushima

Rentaneko - a comedy about a woman in Japan who rents out cats to people who want company

As long as I can get to all the press screenings I'll review all those films on this blog (and perhaps some more, there really are a lot of excellent films in this year's programme!).

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.



Saturday, 2 June 2012

Summer Fairs

This morning we went to the Corstorphine Fair, where amidst the usual mix of stalls (second hand books, plants and home made cakes) the highlight was the photography competition exhibition. Crafty Green Boyfriend had three photos on display, one of which was commended and his Mum had three photos on display, one of which won first prize! (The photo here shows all three of Crafty Green Boyfriend's entries and his Mum's prize winning entry (with the orange label by it).)


After celebrating with a coffee, we caught the bus back into town and went to the Meadows Festival, where amongst the usual mix of stalls (second hand books and music, vintage clothes and homewares) the highlight was the music stage. Several local bands were performing, including Jen and the Gents (see photo).


Several years ago, I became one of  the few poets ever to have performed on this stage (you can see a photo of me mid-poem on my Over Forty Shades blog here).

There were lots of lively dogs around and the Dogs' Trust had a tent where they were giving out pet care advice and even had a couple of rescue dogs for people to look at. I hope these dogs find loving homes over the weekend!

Before leaving we bought a coriander plant to add to the mini garden on our windowsill.

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Coming Soon! Recycle Week

It's Recycle Week 18-24 June 2012. To get us all thinking about recycling, here are some interesting facts about plastic:

 The first plastic bottle was sold in 1947   
Any plastic bottle can be recycled now (though this may depend on the facilities available in your local area!) Just wash & squash them.
The flag planted on the moon by Neil Armstrong in 1969 was made of Nylon. 
Plastic is the most used material in the world, and has been for 35 years.
Recycling 1 tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon emissions. 
It only takes 25 two-litre plastic bottles to make an adult-sized fleece. 
Recycling just one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60W light bulb for six hours
We now recycle 20 times more plastic than we did back in 2000. 
Over 90% of our local authorities now offer collection facilities for plastic bottles, either from your kerbside or recycling centres. 
If all of us in the UK recycled just one extra plastic bottle every year, we could power over 71,000 plasma screen TVs indefinitely using the energy saved (though personally I would have thought there were better things to do with that energy!
  
Thanks to WRAP for the information in this blog post.