Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Greetings Cards and Taking a Short Break

I spent a lot of time during my Poet Laureateship of the Forest Cafe Free Shop drawing dinosaurs for collages! I drew and cut out more dinosaurs than I needed for what I was making there so I brought them home and made some greetings cards

You can read about my time as Poet Laureate of the Free Shop here.

I'm now taking a blog and social media break for about two and a half weeks (this post on my Shapeshifting Green blog explains why) though my Etsy shops will remain open.

I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Brown Rabbit in the City by Natalie Russell



Brown Rabbit in the City

A copy of this book was sitting in the Forest Cafe Free Shop during the week while I was Poet Laureate there. I read this book a couple of times and it inspired me to write a story about rabbits exploring the free shop.

Brown Rabbit in the City is a beautifully illustrated book about a brown rabbit who goes to the city to see his friend Little Rabbit. Little Rabbit is very excited by the visit and rushes Brown Rabbit round her favourite cafes, museums, galleries and shops. Poor Brown Rabbit is overwhelmed and exhausted by all the rushing around, after all he's a country bunny and his only reason for visiting the city is to spend time with his friend! Will Little Rabbit ever slow down and spend time with him?

This is a lovely book about friendship and enjoying life at a slower pace.

Brown Rabbit in the City by Natalie Russell

Monday, 12 November 2018

Poet Laureateship at the Forest Cafe

So I've now come to the end of my time as poet laureate of the Forest Cafe Free Shop. Yesterday I held a creative writing workshop in the downstairs space of the cafe where 6 people joined me to write poetry and stories inspired by things in the free shop. There was a great variety of objects chosen to inspire a lovely selection of writings.

Today I wrote another story and then gave a presentation on my time as poet laureate and read out my stories and poetry and showed the collages I've made in my time in the cafe.

It's been a very enjoyable week, I've met some great people and spent lots of time writing, inspired by the amazing random things found in the free shop. I've written two poems about dinosaurs, made two dinosaur themed collages, written a story about a hat, a poem inspired by a photo album and a map, a poem about a broken doll and a story about two rabbits exploring the free shop. I've drunk lots of green tea, despite this cat's best attempts to try to get me to try other types of tea

I've also eaten naschos, falafel wraps and burritos, but the burritos are the best and even feature in one of my stories.

If you're in Edinburgh, you can always pop into the Forest to donate items to the free shop or to browse what's there already - they have a great selection of clothes, books, art materials, toys and raondom objects.

As for the poet laureateship, it will now be a quarterly position, held by a different poet every quarter and there will be an annual publication featuring everything produced by all the poet laureates. The publication will be available from the Forest Cafe.

You can read more about my time as poet laureate of the free shop here, here, here and here.

Friday, 9 November 2018

My Workspace in the Forest Cafe

I'm continuing to enjoy my week as Poet Laureate of the Forest Cafe Free Shop. Yesterday I spent some time in the cafe making a dinosaur themed collage to illustrate a poem and worked on a story about two rabbits who explore the free shop.

I had planned to read some poetry and a short story at the Open Mic last night and as the MC didn't turn up then I found myself taking on that role as well. We had some guitar music and singing from a guy called Ben and some beautiful haiku from Robert Alcock, who sells tiny pamphlets of his haiku but doesn't seem to have a web presence.

I was back in the cafe for a while today. I've managed to claim one of the tables nearest to the Free Shop as my own 

Today I spent more time on the rabbit story and also planned the creative writing workshop that will happen in the Cafe at 3pm on Sunday. I'm hoping people will come along and be inspired by items from the shop or by the shop itself. Anyone who attends the workshop will be invited to read (if they want!) at the poetry reading and presentation about the project in the cafe at 4pm on Monday.

You can read more about this project here, here and here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Inspiration from the Forest Free Shop

I've got a very busy day today but did manage to spend some time in the Forest Cafe, where I am currently (for one week only) the 'Poet Laureate of the Free Shop'. You can read more about this project here and my blog post from my first day in post is here.

The free shop is full of weird and wonderful things. There are plenty of clothes, books and toys but also real oddities, it's a really inspiring place whether you're looking for a dress to borrow for a special occasion or materials for your next art project.

Here are some of the things from the shop that particularly inspire me

The book is a YA novel translated into Italian which looks like a relatively easy read! The jewellery is a broken necklace that I will make into something else and an odd earring that I will dismantle and use as a pendant. The dinosaurs I'm using as templates to make paper dinosaurs for collages and have inspired my first poem for the residency, which I will be reading at the end of project event at 4pm on Monday 12 November. I'm also running a writing workshop at 3pm on Sunday 11 November.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

First Day at the Forest

I had a great day today on the first day of my week as the Poet Laureate of the Forest Cafe Free Shop!

The Forest Cafe is an essential part of alternative Edinburgh and tends to be full of students and artists. It has a great menu, including brilliant vegan burritos and a wide range of teas

The free shop is an eclectic selection of clothing, music, films, books, toys, electric cables, art supplies and all kinds of things that you can browse and take away.

The cafe is decorated with art works including this lovely mobile

Over the next week I'll be spending a lot of time in the cafe, drinking tea (and eating burritos!), searching through the free shop for inspiration, chatting to other artists and writing poetry and making collages. I've also donated a couple of items to the Free Shop and managed to sneak some poetry into this one



The writing workshop will be at 3pm Sunday 11 November (the Facebook event is here) and the poetry reading will be at 4pm Monday 12 November (the Facebook event is here). Feel free to come along to either of those events if you can and if you're around Tollcross any time that week feel free to pop in and see if I'm around!



Monday, 5 November 2018

Watch out for Wildlife on Bonfire Night!

A big pile of logs, leaves and twigs is the base for a great bonfire, but it's  also a perfect hiding place for hedgehogs, toads, frogs and all sorts of other garden inhabitants who are looking for a cosy, frost free place to spend the winter.

Here are some ideas from the charity Frog Life to make help make your bonfire more wildlife-friendly:

  • Start by piling your bonfire materials in a separate place to where you’ll make the actual bonfire, and move them just before you light the fire. 
  • If you find any animals, move them carefully to a similar habitat in another part of the garden.
  • Just before lighting, have a final check through the bonfire with a torch and then light the fire from one side only so any living things left inside can find a way out and escape.
  • Try to burn only clean, untreated wood on your bonfire, with no nasty varnish, paint or plastics so you don’t release toxic chemicals in the smoke.
And here is advice from the Audobon Society about how to make your firework display more wildlife friendly: 

Choose noise-free ground fireworks. Loud explosions will frighten your pets and the local wildlife. 
Keep pets inside, even if you have noise free fireworks, someone else locally is sure to have bangers.
Check your surroundings before dark to make sure there are no birds' nests or other animal dwellings near your launch site.
Go to a public firework display rather than holding your own. The public disaplay is likely to be larger and have better safety controls. Also having fewer neighbourhood fireworks limits the potential wildlife damage.
Petition for the future. Ask your city or town to switch to eco-friendly fireworks products when they are available and/or more affordable. (There are such things as eco-friendly fireworks, but I can find little out about them other than what is on this page of the Audobon Society).


So, have fun this fireworks night but remember to look after your pets and local wildlife.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Let's Celebrate and Protect Edinburgh's Trees!

Edinburgh is a beautiful city with many lovely greenspaces, many of which are renowned for the beautiful trees. Here are some recent tree photos from Colinton and Craiglockart Dells along the Water of Leith:




and here are some recent photos from Corstophine Hill






Trees make places more beautiful and offer homes for wildlife. We should value and protect our urban trees. Now as far as I know the trees in the Dells and on Corstorphine HIll are valued and protected and won't be felled unless they're diseased or badly damaged and usually in those cases the fallen trunks are allowed to lie offering further habitats for insects that feed on dead wood.

However not all of our trees are officially looked after. I wrote in this post about how the National Galleries of Scotland have destroyed 52 trees in East Princes Street Gardens. The aim is to create an accessible pathway for people with disabilities and push chairs to access the lower galleries in their venue on the Mound, which is a laudable objective but one that surely could have been achieved without such wanton destruction of a lovely part of our city centre. The trees will apparently be replaced with around 20 new semi mature trees next spring. The anger against the galleries and the council has increased since it has become obvious that the Christmas market is benefitting directly from the open space left by the destruction of the trees. Edinburgh Christmas Market have blocked me (and probably many others) on Twitter simply because I've tweeted about the trees being cut down! Before they blocked me I hadn't recently tweeted about the Christmas Market.

The beautiful trees at Meadowbank have long been threatened with the chop, since the council in it's wisdom decided that the world class Meadowbank Sports Stadium needed to be replaced by a smaller (and therefore not workd class) stadium with the rest of the landd being sold off for development and the trees being destroyed, including rare Wheatley elms which have a natural resistance to Dutch Elm Disease. There's a meeting at 7pm this Mondayin the Safari Lounge, 21 Cadzow Place to discuss how these trees can be saved. You can find out more on the event Facebook page.

Another tree campaign is the Woodland Trust's campaign against the High Speed Rail road that will damage or destroy 19 ancient woodlands in the UK. HS2 have put together a decent looking environmental statement in which they say they will plant new areas of woodland, but the sad thing is that ancient woodland is irreplaceable and any newly planted woodland, valuable though it may be in itself, will not, by definition and by the ecological structure of the woodland, become ancient for hundreds of years. 

Friday, 2 November 2018

Trash Fashion - a short story

There were two things that Ella hated with a passion: trash and fashion. Both showed a lack of imagination. No-one thought about whether they could reuse something they just threw it away. No-one thought about their clothes. They all just bought whatever they saw in the windows of the High Street stores. Wore it for one season and then threw it into the trash.

Ella was a graphic designer, a frustrated artist. As she doodled ideas for yet another corporate client, she daydreamed about a more imaginative and useful future for herself. Perhaps trash and fashion could provide the key?

So she started to collect fabric from the trash: unwanted clothes; torn clothes; old curtains; fabric samples; faded cushion covers and worn-out towels. Not just fabric either but jewellery; accessories, anything sparkly, even bits of plastic that caught her eye.

Then she began to make clothes from the trash. Mixing and matching curtains and ribbons; chains and towels; beads and plastic scraps. Her friends loved her designs and told everyone about them. The local boutique put in a huge order. Ella needed to take on assistants. The local media caught on. There was demand for a show which in turn lead to stardom in the fashion world.

Ella was elated! Until she looked around and saw that everyone was wearing her designs. For one season and then throwing them in the trash.


(previously published in Issue 2 of Easily Inspired Magazine (which sadly no longer seems to exist))


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Everland by Rebecca Hunt

Everland
This is a novel set in that most mysterious place, Antarctica. In 1912 a team of three men Dinners, Miller-Bass and Napps are sent from the base on the Antarctic mainland to explore the uncharted island of Everland. One hundred years later Brix, Jess and Decker recreate the same expedition.

The second expedition reflects the first in many ways - each team has one member who is significantly weaker than the others and both expeditions come across many problems with the weather, injury and constant interpersonal strife.  At times there seemed like too many forced co-incidences between the two stories to be honest.

I felt the cahracters weren't particularly interesting but the writing is otherwise excellent and the sense of tension in both stories is really ratched up as the novel moves forward. I also loved the descriptions of the landscape and the wildlife:

"In the fifty days it took for a hatchling to grow into a self sufficient Adelie penguin] a chick needed to bulk up by around a hundred grams every twenty four hours....... The rapid transformation from tiny scrap to sleek adult was ungainly and the chicks had reached the ungainly adolescent stage. Their flippers were too big for them and dragged on the ground like long sleeves." 

This is an engrossing adventure story, and a cautionary tale for anyone wanting to go to Antarctica!

Everland by Rebecca Hunt, published by Penguin (2014).