Friday 31 December 2010


New Year revellers -
the urban fox pokes its head
through the garden gate.

for a river of stones

Thursday 30 December 2010

Preparing for the New Year

As some readers of this blog will know, I will be participating in A River of Stones during January. A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention. Here are two I have already shared on Twitter:

a carrion crow, on a tv aerial, bows again and again, calling over and over 'caw, caw, caw'

fallen leaves trapped in the frozen canal - a carrion crow slides across, drinking the meltwater from the surface

(The second one was written after a wonderful walk along the Union Canal the other day, when we saw a lot of interesting birds, including my first bramblings for years!).

In January I will be sharing small stones on this blog, interspersed with other blog posts. If you want to join in you can find out more here.

If you read my Over Forty Shades blog, you may have noticed that I've not posted all that much recently. I've not been sure what to do with it, and have just kept it ticking over with the occasional poem, photo and book review. Next year however I have committed to three reading challenges, all of which I will be writing about on Over Forty Shades (The Haruki Murakami Challenge, the Italy in Books Challenge and the LGBT Reading Challenge). I also received a new camera for Christmas and am thinking of posting quirky photos of hidden architectural gems of Edinburgh over there, plus of course there will be occasional poems that don't fit on this blog. So it may become worth reading....

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

Wednesday 29 December 2010

The Bird Artist by Howard Norman

Set in the early 20th Century, The Bird Artist tells the story of Fabian Vas, who paints birds. He also, as he tells us in the opening paragraph of the book, killed the lighthouse keeper in the small coastal Newfoundland village where he lives. The novel is an exploration of the story behind the murder, the relationships between the Vas family and the other villagers and how art and birds played a role in Fabian's redemption. It is full of wonderful details about the birds of the area and how to paint them.

Fabian Vas has a mentor Isaac Sprague with whom he has shared a long exchange of paintings and letters, which have helped him develop his skills and talent. Sprague is short on actual praise but his comments are always helpful: The most recent kingfisher ........ It was adequate. But the bird's reflection itself too closely resembled the actual bird's face. It wasn't even slightly distorted on the surface, so the texture of the water wasn't at all represented is a typical comment.

The novel is beautifully written and made me want to visit Newfoundland to see all these wonderful birds. I also wished the novel was illustrated.

The Bird Artist by Howard Norman published 1994 by Picador USA

Thursday 23 December 2010

Christmas Haiku

in the trees -
distant moon

fir tree -
icicles on the tip
of every branch

Wednesday 22 December 2010

A River of Stones

In January 2011 I'll be joining in NaSmaStoMo. National Small Stone Month. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a small stone every day during the month of January. A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention. You can find out more and join in at A River of Stones. You can read a selection of small stones over on a handful of stones.

I'll be sharing my small stones here, interspersed with my other blog posts and I'll also be sharing them on Twitter.

Meanwhile I'm delighted that one of my haiku has been accepted for publication in the innovative and edible poetry journal Poetry Digest.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Lunar Eclipse

Memories of a reddening moon sliding through the sky outside the window. I watched every moment of the last lunar eclipse. Awed. This time though there was no chance to see it. Our flat faces the wrong way. We're too lazy to get up very early and travel through the snow and ice to find (and climb) a hill from which to watch, with no guarantee of clear skies. I took out the recycling early as an excuse to look for the moon. No luck. From ground level it was too low to see.

behind those buildings -
lunar eclipse.

But I have memories from a few years ago, a reddening moon in an awestruck night.

Monday 20 December 2010

Green Thing Videos

I won a copy of Watch and Do the Green Thing in a Twitter competition a while back. I have to admit, for some reason I thought it was going to be very 'worthy' rather than watchable so hadn't watched it until a couple of days ago. In fact I was wrong, it is very entertaining and imaginative and really makes the viewer think about how you can become greener in your every day life without preaching at you. The videos use animation, live action and a host of imaginative approaches. They are all very short so there isn't time to go into issues in any great detail but they all make you think, which is a great starting point!

For example Ninjin the Vegetable Assassin takes a unique approach to the issue of seasonal food, while Touching the Stairs has a group of mountaineers trying to reach the first landing in a flight of stairs and Huddle has a group of naked people pretending to be penguins to show what we can learn from penguins about working together and keeping warm. My favourite video is Recycled / Reborn which shows a very creative craft project using recycled trash.

Most of the videos are online, along with a selection of other videos aimed at helping you to become greener. You can watch them on the Do the Green Thing website.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Green Party Dress

This is one of my favourite items of clothing! It's a black velvet cheongsam and it's green because I bought it second hand (as I do all my clothes other than underwear and shoes). One of the best things about it is that it can be worn with tights or with trousers and even with a long sleeved top underneath, making it ideal for even colder winter parties. I wore it like that at the launch of my poetry chapbook Unthinkable Skies earlier this year.

Friday 17 December 2010

Blackleach Reflections

As I mentioned in this post, we visited Blackleach Country Park, Walkden, Manchester at the weekend. The light was wonderful and here are some more photos, all taken by Crafty Green Boyfriend.

For Weekend Reflections

Thursday 16 December 2010

A Round Up

I was delighted that my Open Planet Idea was shortlisted, you can read my post about Open Planet here and you can read more about my shortlisted idea here. The next stage is that the short listed ideas are to be evaluated and then the winning one will be taken forward by World Wildlife Fund and Sony to be made into a feasible technology / app.

I was equally delighted to find that a flash fiction piece I wrote has been accepted and published by Easily Inspired. You can read it on their website (advisable not to download anything from this site as MacAfee have security concerns about it, if you're being extra cautious you may not want to visit at all, but then you miss out on my story!).

I'm writing a series of blogposts about the birds to be found on the Water of Leith and in the wider Leith area of Edinburgh for Greener Leith. You can read the first two posts here and here.
I am also writing a series of reviews for Sabotage. You can read them here.

I've also just found out I've won a competition (not a writing competition!). I'll post more here when it's announced!

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

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Ethical Funding for Community Groups

Cooperative Membership Fund

Having worked as a charity fundraiser, I know how difficult it can be for small community groups to find money to carry out their work. Many charitable trusts don't fund groups unless they are a registered charity (which is fair enough I suppose but can be problematic for small local groups run on a shoestring) and there is a surprising lack of trusts that will fund projects that just need a small amount of money - I guess a lot of funders like to be associated with big impressive projects!

So it is heartening all round to see The Cooperative Membership Fund. This grant scheme is funded by members of The Co-operative donating some of their share of profits, which is then given away in the form of small grants. This year The Co-operative Members have donated £1.2 million to small charities and other local community groups across the UK.

Another great thing about the Co-operative is that it is an ethical company - you can read about their commitment to tackle Climate Change here. Many community groups looking for charitable funds like to know that the funds they accept are not the proceeds of trade or activities that don't fit in with the groups ethics. (For example some projects don't accept money from the Big Lottery as they don't agree with gambling). A group can be comfortable applying for funds from the Co-operative knowing that the money doesn't come from the proceeds of, for example, selling weapons. Anyone who banks with the Co-operative (as i do), will be very pleased to see some of their profits used to support small community groups across the country.

The Co-operative Membership Fund supports a wide range of activities across the UK, including local food groups, such as Incredible Edible Rossendale, which encourages local people to grow their own food, increasing people's connection with the land and decreasing the carbon footprint of their food by reducing food miles.

You can view a selection of videos featuring supported projects on this page of the Cooperative Membership Fund website. The website also outlines how to apply for funds. In brief, to be successful a group must:

  • Carry out positive work in the community (it does not have to have charitable status to apply)

And the project must:

  • Address a community issue

  • Provide a long-term benefit to the community

  • Support co-operative values and principles

  • Ideally be innovative in its approach

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Monday 13 December 2010

Blackleach Country Park

Blackleach Country Park, photo by Crafty Green Boyfriend

We had a lovely visit to my parents this weekend, enjoying much warmer temperatures than Edinburgh! We discovered Blackleach Country park, which is almost on my parents' doorstep. This was designated as a country park in 2004 (it was derelict land when I was growing up) and has a lake and some nice walks. We saw a good flock of long tailed tits in the trees as well as lots of water birds, including large numbers of coots.

My parents' garden was also full of birds, notably up to ten goldfinches on the bird feeders, several blackbirds fighting over the sultanas, blue tits, a song thrush (which despite their recent declines in number are still regularly seen and heard near my parents' home), a dunnock, a wren and a very good view of a jay, which is a big handsome bird that I don't often get a close look at.

The train journey from Bolton to Edinburgh is always lovely, passing through the English Lake District and southern Scotland. It looked particularly lovely with the dustings of snow. We also noticed the Cauldstane Slap pass, which is nicely visible from the train as it passes between Carstairs and Edinburgh and which the Belvedere Mountain Express album was named after.

We got back to Edinburgh yesterday to find that my reading at TraVerses was cancelled, which was a relief in some ways as I don't really like rushing around and didn't really feel like going straight out to read after getting off a train!

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

Thursday 9 December 2010

Away for a few days!

Yesterday the icicles outside our window looked like this.

Today they have almost entirely melted away. We're hoping for good train services tomorrow to take us down to Bolton to visit my parents. We'll be back hopefully in time for me to read (briefly and at short notice) at TraVerses at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. I'll be (trains permitting) reading alongside a showing of Alastair Cook's film of my poem Adrift.

As ever red text contains hyperlinks to pages where you can find out more!

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Cauldstane Slap

Cauldstane Slap is the new CD from Belvedere Mountain Express and very good it is too! The first thing you notice is the cover, which features stunning photos of the snowy Pentland Hills near Edinburgh. In fact the area where the Cauldstane Slap Pass passes between the East and West Cairn Hills.

The cover photo complements the music perfectly, which is itself quite wintry in feel (of course this is complemented again by the current weather!). The music is a wonderful mix of accordion (which despite reminding me of the soundtrack of a South American film still manages to feel wintry here) electronic music and odd noises, including a rather manic sounding ticking clock (or possibly metronome) on the track Fireflies. All the music is performed by Howard Goodman. Some tracks feature the ethereal vocals of Becky Rose Fisher.

The title track is rather menacing in mood, which evokes the history of Cauldstane Slap - a drovers road that used to be known also as "The Thieves Road”. Border Reivers, Moss Troopers (bandits) and robbers galloped through the pass on night raids. Wrapped in their plaids and armed, drovers slept with their herds and flocks, to defend them.

The last track on the album The Last Livonian features a recording of the last native speaker of the Livonian language (formerly spoken in Latvia and currently being revived) complemented perfectly by the music.

Cauldstane Slap by Belvedere Mountain Express can be bought here.

As ever red text contains hyperlinks where you can find out more.

Monday 6 December 2010

Winter Birds

It was snowing heavily when I made my usual Monday walk round the Dells, along the Water of Leith today. It's a wonderful place at any time of the year but there is a special magic in the snow - a real winter wonderland. Unfortunately there's been so much snow that some trees have lost branches or fallen under the weight. If you're thinking of wandering round the Dells, do be careful, the path is partially blocked in places! I have cut back some of the smaller branches and also the ivy attached to some of the fallen trees, but I don't have the tools (or the skills!) to deal with the larger fallen branches. The Water of Leith Conservation Trust and the Edinburgh Countryside rangers will deal with these issues as and when they can. You also need to take care underfoot, the snow is soft and very nice for walking on, but it's easy to stray from the path and find yourself falling in a hole!

I saw lots of birds today. A heron took flight from the river almost as soon as I got into the Dells. I saw two dippers, one standing on a snow covered rock in the middle of the river, singing. We think of the robin as being the only bird in the UK that really sings in the winter, but the dipper (whose song is almost unexpected in its very existence) also sings now, a lovely song. It's a very early breeder so I guess its starting to stake its claim to territory extra early. I also had a very close view of a goldcrest, the tiniest British bird, but from a distance more likely to be confused with a coal tit or a blue tit than with a wren (and I saw one of those today as well!). I also had an excellent view of a buzzard that was being mobbed by a group of crows.

As I was leaving the Dells, I walked into an area that was full of long tailed tits. I saw about 15 of them, all bouncing from branch to branch, chatting away to each other.

On the way back into town, I passed a row of white berried rowan trees, and saw a small group of waxwings flying towards me. They landed in the rowan tree and started ripping off the berries!

Conservation organisations tell us to be extra careful not to disturb birds at this time of year, which is very true as they need to conserve their energy and don't want to be flying around all the time avoiding potential threats. However I think it is often true that birds are likely to come very close of their own accord at this time of year!

Sunday 5 December 2010

Green the Film

Green is a heartbreaking, award winning film about the last days of a dying orang utan who has been rescued from the wasteland that her forest home has become. As Green lies dying on her Hello Kitty beanbag, we are shown footage of the remarkable beauty that was once found in the Indonesian rainforests and amazing moments shared between orang utan parents and offspring. We are then shown the forests being destroyed and replaced with palm oil plantations, intercut with scenes of the paper industry, the timber industry, hardwood furniture showrooms, beautiful women wearing heay make up, cars being filled up with bio-diesel made from palm oil.

Green the Film has its own website where you can watch the film, read the blog, find out who is responsible for destroying the Indonesian rainforests (scroll down) and take action. To help preserve the rainforests, ask yourself questions like:

a) do you need that new furniture? If so can you buy it second hand? Or from a dealer that sources its wood entirely ethically (admittedly difficult to verify this since the FSC is no longer entirely credible as a certification for ethically sourced wood).

b) do you need to use your car? Many forms of bio-diesel (such as those made from palm oil) are as damaging as oil and gas and there isn't enough bio-diesel from used chip fat to keep the world driving.

c) do you need to use so many cosmetics and toiletries? For those you do need, can you use less? Source the products you need from companies who do not use palm oil.

d) cut down on your use of processed foods, most of which contain palm oil. For those processed foods you can't do without, source products that contain olive oil or other alternatives to palm oil.

I posted recently about the video The Sustainability Lie, which shows that even the palm oil plantations that are certified as sustainable may be anything but.

The Indonesian tropical forests are wonderful habitats, home to amazing creatures such as the orang utan. Surely we need to do what we can to protect them?

As ever, red text in this post contains hyperlinks that lead to pages with more information.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Winter haiku

snowy roofs -
a flock of geese skeins
across grey skies

icy pavements -
the rotweiler pauses
before each step

Friday 3 December 2010


Scotland is having the worst weather for November since the 1960s. Edinburgh is ankle deep in snow, which is very pretty but is causing some chaos. (More chaos than it needs perhaps in some areas, some people are questioning why our schools are closed when schools in Siberia, Finland and Alaska are all open as normal!).

These extreme cold weather conditions of course are causing some people to question climate change, as sceptics always will. The most obvious cause for extreme weather hitting the UK while global temperatures increase, would be the loss of the Gulf Stream. This is the current of warm water that comes up from the southern oceans and passes by the UK making our winters, at least up until two years ago, milder than we would otherwise experience given how far north we are. The Gulf Stream could be lost as Arctic seas become warmer. There is a good article in the Telegraph newspaper, that explains this and other reasons why extremely cold winters in the UK are compatible with overall global warming.

Wildlife is vulnerable in this weather, so if you have a garden, make sure you put out food for the birds. The RSPB offer some excellent advice on how to feed the birds. The RSPB offer some specific advice for feeding birds in winter.

Of course people can be vulnerable in this weather too, so if you have elderly neighbours, please check up on them to see if they need anything.

As ever red text in this post contains hyperlinks which you can follow to find out more!

Thursday 2 December 2010

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the Pullitzer Prize in 1975. I found this copy on a Bookcrossing bookshelf a couple of months ago. This is an amazing book! It's a journal of the author's year in her home near Tinker Creek in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, including her observations and thoughts on solitude, writing, religion, and nature. She records everything in amazing detail, making you wish you could see more yourself when you're out observing nature. Woven seamlessly into her observations are thoughts about how nature fits together and finds a balance; the meaning of life and death for humans and for other living things and a spiritual searching. She has a wonderful ability to see the long time scale and to make connections that most people don't make on a conscious level and that would probably help us all if we could develop the same ability:

...the duck pond is rapidly turning into a landfill of its own, a landfill paved in frogs. There are a million frogs here, bullfrogs hopping all over each other on tangled mats of algae. And the pond is filling up. Small ponds don't live very long, especially in the south. Decaying matter piles up on the bottom, depleting oxygen and the shore plants march to the middle. In another couple of centuries, if no one interferes the duck pond will be a hickory forest.

A wonderful book for anyone who loves nature.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard published by Harper's Magazine Press, 1974.
As ever, red text in this post is a hyperlink and takes you to a page where you can find out more!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Tawny Owl

One of the wonderful things about being a volunteer patroller along the Water of Leith is that I get to know the wildlife of my part of the river really well. For example, there is a tawny owl roost that I look at every time I go past in the hopes of seeing the owl. I had only ever seen the owl once before Monday when it stood at the front of its roost and watched while we caught it on camera. A beautiful and very well camoflaged bird I think you'll agree!

snow on the ground -
the tawny owl watches
from his roost.

Click on the image to make it bigger.
As ever all the red text links to pages where you can find out more! 

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Upcycled draught excluder

I made this draught excluder from fabric from a kimono that was worn for years as a dressing gown and has totally fallen apart. You may recognise the fabric from my sandwich bags (see this post!). I stuffed the draught excluder with scrap fabric (leftovers from craft projects, old socks, a pillow case that Anya our rabbit had torn apart, etc). I cut up the fabric to make the draught excluder more evenly shaped. It still looks a bit lumpy as it isn't quite finished, it needs a bit more fabric in it! However we need it already given the very cold weather we're having, so I've tied it up with the yellow rope (from a curtain tie-back that Anya had chewed to pieces, she liked chewing, did Anya!). This will be sewn in place once the draught excluder is full and at that point I will even out the stuffing. 

By the way, Blogger is being difficult at the moment, so please bear with me if posting becomes erratic!

Monday 29 November 2010

Winter Wonderland

We had a wonderful walk along the Water of Leith today. It really is a winter wonderland at the moment, the snow is incredibly thick on the paths and in the trees. Crafty Green Boyfriend took these photos. I think the third image may be useful as a Christmas email photo!

If you do go along the Water of Leith while the snow is still around, do be careful as the paths are deep in snow (with unexpecetd holes appearing sometimes) and there are a lot of branches that are so loaded with snow that they're hanging very low over the paths.

Sunday 28 November 2010

The Sustainability Lie

Palm Oil Plantations are desperate to prove that they are environmentally friendly. The truth is that most of them are far from being so. Large palm oil companies buy up vast tracts of pristine rainforest, destroy it and plant the land with palm oil trees. In the process they destroy the livelihoods of local farmers and are driving orang utans and other rainforest species to extinction. You can find out more by watching this video The Sustainability Lie.

The problem for us as consumers is that palm oil turns up in everything - most processed foods and toiletries contain palm oil. The only way to avoid it is to be really careful what you buy and to make as much of your meals from scratch. Also use as few cosmetics and toiletries as you can and look for products that don't contain palm oil.

Patersons is a Scottish company that makes oatcakes. I discovered their oatcakes recently and noticed that they are palm oil free. It's excellent to see a company recognising the need to stop using palm oil. Paterson's are members of the UK Orang Utan Foundation and have some good information on Palm oil on their website, which you can read here. Similarly, the Handmade Oatcake company (whose oatcakes I wrote about in this review of Greener Monday) don't use palm oil.

Ultimately, there is a limit to what consumers can do and it is down to companies to genuinely ensure that they work to environmentally sustainable practices. Having said that, I'm now going to write to a toiletries company that delights in calling itself organic but uses palm oil in most of its soaps.

As ever, red tect in this post contain hyperlinks to sites where you can find out more.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Gorgie City Farm

We went to Gorgie City Farm today, partly lured by the promise of waxwings, as Deb (whose photoblog you can see here) had seen 60 or so waxwings near the farm the other day.

It had snowed last night and the farm was covered in a light dusting of white. The chickens and turkeys seemed unhappy with the cold though the pigs, Fudge the cow and Red the horse all seemed happy enough. Red actually was looking particularly well given that he's been really ill recently. The sheep were all in their shed, the black bunnies (Ebony and Sugar) were out in their enclosure, seemingly not caring about the snow, the other bunnies were in their shed and the goats seemed happy in their snowy fields. The wildlife garden was full of blue tits, long tailed tits and house sparrows while the trees bordering the farm were full of waxwings.

We were quite surprised and honoured even that Dexter the farm cat came out of his hiding place in the shrubbery to say hello to us.

We were delighted that the Farm Produce Stall was open, now selling books and bric-a-brac as well as locally grown fruit, vegetables and eggs (much of which come from the farm itself).  So we stocked up on vegetables before having lunch in the Farm Cafe, which as well as serving excellent snacks and meals, has a wildlife book, where we entered our sightings of the waxwings!

As ever, the red text in this post contains hyperlinks where you can find out more!

Friday 26 November 2010

The Cramond Fish

It's the St Andrew's Day weekend! We had a lovely trip to Cramond today. The weather was perfect, blue skies, cold but very little wind. Crafty Green Boyfriend took this photo of the Cramond Fish sculpture (by Ronald Rae, erected 19 April 2009) that I've admired on my last few trips down to Cramond. (Slightly early for Shadow Shot Sunday!)

We also saw a good number of birds, though the tide was so far out that some of them were too far away to identify. We did however get good looks at: lapwing, oystercatcher, curlew, bar tailed godwit, dunlin, redshank and shelduck.

Remember, as ever, if the text is in red, it means you can click your way through to a web page with more information!

Thursday 25 November 2010

winter bird haiku

through the traffic noise -
the soft calls of waxwings
in the trees

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Imaginary Paintings by Charles Baxter

Imaginary Paintings is the third poetry collection from Charles Baxter. He writes understated poetry that is beautifully dreamy and atmospheric and charged with significance. He is a very visual writer (as can probably be expected from the title of this collection!) and he describes nature beautifully, weaving his descriptions into the narrative of his poems.

We are driving a gray road at night,
no signs, far from friends, out in the broken
country where trees whose names we don't know
ridge marshlands, shadow on shadow. Something
moves back and forth in the trees, ruffled
and winglike, which we might see
 if we stopped. We don't. Sparrows fly up

from County Road H

I had never read anything by Baxter before, but I would certainly be interested in reading more, now!

Imaginary Paintings by Charles Baxter, published by Paris Review Editions 1989

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Art Exhibitions

There are several excellent art exhibitions on in Edinburgh at the moment. Three of them are on at the newly refurbished City Art Centre. One Floor of the gallery is devoted to Ian Hamilton Finlay the poet, artist and gardener, featuring beautifully atmospheric photos of his poetic garden Little Sparta. This exhibition is on until 6 March 2011.

Two floors are devoted to Window to the West: The Rediscovery of Highland Art, a varied exhibition of art from the Scottish Highlands, including lovely landscapes and an artist's book from Frances Walker and Sea Journals - beautiful pieces that combine assemblages and drawings from Elizabeth Ogilvie. This exhibition is on until 6 March 2011.

The top floor of the gallery is filled with Spirit of Air, an exhibition of Lizzie Farey's willow sculptures. Most of these are abstract, either hanging on the wall or as basket type pieces. My favourites are the swallows and also the pieces that include the furry willow catkins, this is an exhibition where it is difficult to not touch the exhibits. This exhibition is on until 27 February 2011.

The other art exhibition that is particularly worth seeing is Gray Stuff an exhibition of Alasdair Gray's designs for book covers, theatre posters and other of his illustrations. Some of his notebooks are on display too, which offer a fascinating insight into his process as a writer and illustrator. This exhibition is on until 11 December at the Talbot Rice Gallery, which is part of the University of Edinburgh.

As ever, red text in this post links to external websites where you can find out more! 

Monday 22 November 2010

Greener Monday - local food in Edinburgh 2

Greener Monday recently sent me a food box to review. You can read more about it in this post here.

We've now had a chance to sample all the foods and we enjoyed everything very much!

Ola - extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil from Ola, Aberdeenshire (Ola is Gaelic for oil) is a good alternative to olive oil, made from rapeseed grown in Aberdeenshire. Rapeseed oil has many health benefits compared to olive oil including less than half the saturated fat, though it has been linked to allergies.
Cracked Black Pepper Oatcakes from the Handmade Oatcake Company in Perthshire are chunky and chewy with a hot bite from the pepper. I was impressed to see that they contain rapeseed oil (I assume locally sourced) rather than palm oil as many oatcakes do. (Palm oil is responsible for much tropical deforestation and is probably the biggest factor leading to the decline in orang utans.)

Devilish Tomato Chutney from Isabella's Preserves, Tayside is a wonderful chutney, though perhaps not as hot as its name might suggest (which is a positive point as far as we're concerned)! It is delicious with cheese and the cracked pepper oatcakes. It is also a tasty addition to a curry.

Damson Jelly with Gin also from Isabella's Preserves is delicious on a freshly baked scone.

Shortbread from the Shortbread House in Edinburgh is a lovely shortbread, just the right texture.

Porridge premix (with apple, sultana and cinnamon) from Stoats in Edinburgh smells wonderful with the cinnamon. The apples and sultanas are a wonderful addition to porridge (though some purists may argue that nothing should be added to porridge oats!).

Blueberry drink from Bouvrage in Alloa has quite an unusual taste, though it grows on you. The blueberries come from Finland, which undermines the local provenance of this product somewhat!

Greener Monday has an online shop here. Greener Monday are also to be found at the Village Store at Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Dalmeny Street, Leith, every Saturday between 10am - 2pm. 

Saturday 20 November 2010


a soft chiming call fills the trees
then the flurry of a hundred pairs of wings
that still into crested silhouettes

one flies overhead
- a rush of red tipped wings -
to grab
berries from a nearby tree

a pink punk with a bandit mask

Waxwings are in Edinburgh in their hundreds

Friday 19 November 2010

Union Canal

I was very struck by this reflection of the aquaduct railings when we were walking along the canal last weekend. I persuaded Crafty Green Boyfriend to take this photo, even though he didn't know what the fuss was about! You can read more about our walk and the kingisher we saw here.

For Weekend Reflections

Thursday 18 November 2010

Coming Soon! Green Gift Monday

Green Gift Monday

Green Gift Monday coincides with Cyber Monday, November 29, the official start of the online holiday shopping season. Green Gift Monday aims to encourage people to give gifts that make a difference, like energy-efficient products, experiences rather than physical gifts or buying a virtual gift through a charity.

I think this is a great idea. I often buy people gifts from charity online gift stores. My favourite is the RSPB Good Natured Gifts. Gifts bought from here help to protect birds and other wildlife in the UK and overseas. In the USA, charity shops include the Nature Conservancy Gifts from Nature Shop.

I have found though that not everyone appreciates the virtual gift. I have one (former) friend who hasn't written to me since I sent a virtual charity gift (a donation for a home for dormice it was). I even wrote to ask if she had received the gift and no reply (and no she hasn't moved house!). So it may be useful to check whether the recipient likes the idea of a charity gift or if they'd rather have something for themselves. If it's the latter then you still have a wide range of ethical gift choices, including fair trade or locally made crafts, jewellery or clothes, organic and fair trade food hampers.

You can also make gifts greener by wrapping gifts in recycled papers, or making gifts or cards from recycled materials.

You can find links to most of my posts about green gift ideas here.

Red text in this post links to external websites, where you can find out more.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Tuesday 16 November 2010

The Bony World by Kelly Shepherd

Kelly Shepherd is a Canadian poet who recently spent some time teaching in South Korea. The Bony World is a pamphlet of poetry that focuses on animals and our relationships with them from rescuing sea turtles to accidentally killing a butterfly chrysalis. There is a strong sense of magic relating to the animals, for example the magpie in one for sorrow is the 'only fixed point in the universe' and the bear in taboo deformation being the 'one who turns the heavens.' Loss permates the poems too, often with the sense of us losing our rightful balance with the natural world, as in the stone turtle:

People said as long as the stone turtle was there,
the real turtles would be there too

 The stone turtle has been damaged by people wanting souvenirs and although this poem doesn't specifically state that there are no more real turtles on this beach, that is certainly the conclusion the reader reaches.

This is a collection imbued with reverence for animal life, written with an eye for detail and a sense of wonder.

from inter canem et lupum

restless sheep dreaming nights
careful tread around the borders of campfire light
high, thin, hungry, howling
you divide yourself in half, in thirds,
into a whole circle of coyotes
so you have someone to sing with

This is not just a book of wonderful poetry, it's also a beautiful looking book, printed on a lovely cream, textured paper with cover art by Erin Candela.

The Bony World by Kelly Shepherd published by The Rasp and the Wine

I was delighted to be offered a review copy of this book and I sent a copy of my chapbook Unthinkable Skies in return.

You can read some of Kelly's poetry on Bolts of Silk here.

Text in red in this post contains hyperlinks.

Monday 15 November 2010

Gift Box

It's the time of year to start thinking about Christmas gifts. Possibly slightly early to think about wrapping them but a bit of forward thinking may help plan how to reuse materials to wrap gifts! Chocolates and toiletries often come in boxes that can easily be reused as gift boxes. Here, I pasted some gift wrap over the brand name on the box and filled the box with shredded gift wrap that was too torn to reuse.

You can see more of my festive gift wrap ideas by following these links:

Silvery re-used giftwrapping

Green and white reused giftwrap

Fabric gift bags

Saturday 13 November 2010

Technology to the Rescue

It's very easy to see technology as the villain. However technology can be used in very positive ways to help the environment. Open Planet Ideas is an initiative between Sony and WWF that invites ideas on how technology can be used to address some of the pressing environmental issues that face us at the moment.

You too can join the challenge!  Currently there are over 150 ideas in six themes (Behaviour Change, Cleaner by Design, More with Less, Make it Real, Waste Not and  Recycling Revisited. Specific ideas include using technology to reduce waste or improve cooking methods, using rain as a power source or sharing ideas to reduce packaging waste.

My idea is to use mobile technology and CCTV to both help people improve their wildlife identification skills and at the same time to feed into wildlife recording schemes that are vital to the conservation of nature. This would tie in the image recording capabilities of mobile phones and CCTV cameras with the information held by wildlife organisations (such as the excellent online bird information on the RSPB website) to help with wildlife identification and then to tie in with recording systems (such as Birdtrack as run by the British Trust for Ornithology) to offer a interconnected system for both identification and recording, which would help individuals improve their wildlife identification skills and would help conservation organisations to record more wildlife. To find out more about the idea, you can visit this page and leave your comments.

Find Out More About Open Planet Ideas

There is a great potential for this scheme to generate a lot of ideas with potential to make environmental improvements. The best ideas will be selected and filtered to produce one final concept that Sony will research and develop. The winning device or idea will be made open source; Sony won’t profit directly from it.

Sponsored Post


We saw this kingfisher by the side of the Union Canal in Edinburgh today. Uncharacteristically it was posing nicely in a tree and then in this bit of undergrowth. Crafty Green Boyfriend doesn't have a zoom lens for his camera at the moment, but if you click on the photo you will get a larger view. The kingfisher is such a beautiful bird, wonderful colours. There had been worries that kingfishers in the UK might have really suffered over the cold winter, and although there have been fewer sightings than normal along the Water of Leith this year, it seems that overall in the UK, they've not done too badly this year. You can read more about the kingfisher's resurgence here. 

Friday 12 November 2010

Greener Monday - local food in Edinburgh

Greener Monday is a fairly new social enterprise in Edinburgh that offers a virtual farmers market. They haven online shop offering products made within 100 miles of Edinburgh. They even have a map showing the area this covers.

I was delighted when Greener Monday offered me a sample food box to review and even more delighted when it arrived yesterday. I haven't been able to try anything yet (as I was out for supper last night!) but it all looks wonderful, and was wrapped in a box tied up with a tartan ribbon that I can reuse in a crafting project and including paper packaging material. The food items are:

Devilish Tomato Chutney from Isabella's Preserves, Tayside
Damson Jelly with Gin also from Isabella's Preserves
Ola - extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil from Ola, Aberdeenshire (Ola is Gaelic for oil)
Cracked Black Pepper Oatcakes from the Handmade Oatcake Company in Perthshire
Shortbread from the Shortbread House in Edinburgh
Porridge premix (with apple, sultana and cinnamon) from Stoats in Edinburgh
Blueberry drink from Bouvrage in Alloa

I notice though that the blueberries in the Bouvrage come from Finland, which given that Scotland seems to have a lot of blueberries is a surprise and undermines the local provenance of the product. I think this is a perennial problem for processed foods. The product might be produced in one locality but that doesn't mean that all the ingredients are sourced locally. I think the other products are all made from local ingredients though, and so qualify for being genuinely local.

So we'll look forward to eating and drinking and making notes over the next wee while and I'll do the second part of the review when we've tried a bit of everything!

A note about reviews etc: I mostly review books and films that I've chosen (and paid for!) myself but am happy to review products or services that are sent to me. I've set up a new page with a short note about this. I am nowadays sent a lot of press releases, which I may use as the basis of blog posts if I think they fit nicely within the blog. I may even on occasion write a sponsored post (and yes that does mean there's one coming up!) but only where I really believe in what I'm being paid to write about.

The red text in this post links to websites where you can find out more!

Thursday 11 November 2010

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Green Books Campaign: A Year in the Woods

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on "green" books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.
A Year in the Woods by Colin Elford is published by Hamish Hamilton (an imprint of Penguin Books) on paper certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. You can read more about Penguin's commitment to the environment here. The book is a lovely looking hardback in a smallish format with the pages printed on a nice paper.
The book is a diary of Elford's working life as a forest ranger on the Dorset / Wiltshire border. It appealed to me because of my voluntary work with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust where once a week I patrol an area of woodland along the river, recording wildlife, picking litter and keeping an eye out for pollution and other issues. Of course Elford's work is much more demanding and seems to take over his whole life, he is often found working late into the night or setting out before dawn into the forest. His tasks are also more wide ranging than I undertake as a volunteer, in fact one of his main tasks is to cull deer. In fact this leads to my one complaint about the book. Too much emphasis on the shooting! I definitely got the feeling that the book is aimed at the outdoor sports fan rather than the naturalist. I understand the need for culling populations of deer, they have no natural predators in the UK since we wiped out all the big carnivores that used to roam our countryside. However, I felt that the narrative could have been a bit less biased towards the hunting.
Having said that the book is fascinating. Elford obviously knows his patch of woodland intimately and makes  wonderfully detailed observations of the natural wonders around him.
Bobbing and swerving, the owl heads over some young pine. While one crow carries on the chase, the other soars skywards, then suddenly and violently stoops at the tawny; the owl crumples like an airborne mass of feathers, the force pushing  the bird deep into the pine tops, causing a massive burst of pine pollen.
It's the detail of the burst of pine pollen that is so interesting here, how many of us would notice that or recognise it for what it is?
This book gives a fascinating and personal insight into how our forests (and deer populations) are managed.

Disclaimer - I received a free copy of this book as part of the Green Books Campaign.

Monday 8 November 2010

More autumn birds

I extended my walk along the Water of Leith today to Balgreen where I have heard there have been waxwings in the past few days. I didn't see any. However I did see a nice large flock of redwings, a lovely mixed flock of finches and tits including a lot of bullfinches (so nice to see this bright finch in good numbers, it had declined quite drastically but more recently has recovered). Also separate flocks of long tailed tits in three places along the river. Some of them came really close to me and I could see the markings on their heads. Long tailed tits are one of my favourite birds, and are found in great number in many places in Edinburgh at this time of year, so I thought I'd use that as an excuse to repost the haiku and tanka below:

willow tree -
long tailed tits leap
branch to branch


at the piano
I struggle to bring to life
the notes on the stave -
outside, long tailed tits flutter
in the bare branches

Sunday 7 November 2010

One More Generation

I have been asked to share the history of this inspiring organisation!

Carter (age 9.5) and his sister Olivia (age 8) are so passionate about wanting to make a difference that they started their own organization called One More Generation (OMG).

The two students had been adopting cheetah's in South Africa for years and started asking why some animals needed adopting. When they heard that unless someone stepped in to help, there might not be any cheetahs left in the wild by the time they had their own kids, they sprang into action.

Since starting OMG, Carter and Olivia have been involved in initiatives both locally and globally including:

They have delivered badly needed Animal Rescue Supplies to the Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Rescue Center in New Orleans.

They were guest speakers at the Kids Are Heroes day in Fredrick, Maryland last month where they were recognized for all their hard work.

They aim to raise $50,000.00 for a Cheetah Rescue program run by the Ann Van Dyke Cheetah Centre in South Africa. They recently held a silent auction of paintings kids in the community did of their favorite endangered species.

One More Generation has an educational program that presents to visitors of  Atlanta Zoo, Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Botanical Garden, and the Cochran Mill Nature Center.

They are in talks with The Art Miles Mural Project an international organization that raises awareness of various initiatives through art. They are excited at the prospect of organising an art event for endangered species.

Carter and Olivia will be guest speakers at the Caring for Creation 2011 Conference at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

They recently hosted a “Water Event” at Fernbank Museum where they discussed the importance of water for all living things and partnered with Ryan’s Well Foundation that helps build water wells in poor villages around the world to ensure everyone has access to clean drinking water.

You can read more about this inspiring organisation and see videos of their work on their website.

Carter and Olivia's main messages are "Anybody can make a difference... If we can you can too", and "We need everyone to start paying attention to what we are doing to the planet and all its creatures.  We are supposed to be the stewards of this planet, we need to start acting like one."

Saturday 6 November 2010

Corstorphine Hill

We had a wonderful walk round Corstorphine Hill today. The autumn colours are glorious, there are loads of fungi around and lots of birds. We saw lots of blue tits, great tits, a couple of treecreepers and a couple of goldcrests, which came very close to us, which is relatively unusual for this species. We also had a very good view of a female kestrel being chased by a crow. We had come back to the hill after we had heard there were waxwings there, and we had briefly walked round the hill yesterday lunchtime, without seeing waxwings, though we had seen bullfinches and had been caught in the middle of a flock of long tailed tits, which is a lovely experience. No waxwings today either, which is sad as there are a lot of them in Edinburgh at the moment and they are wonderful birds to see. I have been lucky seeing them in recent years when they've come to Edinburgh, but so far not this year. I guess they should be around for a few weeks longer, so fingers crossed. And in the meantime here are some photos from a very autumnal Corstorphine Hill. The Tower in the first photo is Corstorphine Tower, a memorial to Walter Scott.

(text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to a page giving more information)

Friday 5 November 2010

The Green Books Campaign

On 10 November, 200 bloggers will simultaneously post reviews of 200 books printed on environmentally-friendly paper. By focussing on books printed using greener methods, Eco-Libris aims to raise awareness of the environmental aspects of buying books. This year’s participation of both bloggers and books has doubled from the event’s inception last year. I'll be writing a review of part of this campaign, which you will be able to read here and on my Goodreads page.

"Although there’s so much hype around e-books, books printed on paper still dominate the book market, and we want them to be as environmentally sound as possible,” explains Raz Godelnik, co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris. “Their share is still relatively small, but you can find a growing number of books printed responsibly and we hope this initiative will bring more exposure to such books. Through this campaign we want to encourage publishers to increase their green printing options and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.”

Learn more about the Green Books Campaign and find a list of all participants here.

Eco-Libris works to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices in the industry, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. To achieve these goals Eco-Libris works with book readers, publishers, authors, bookstores and others in the book industry worldwide. So far Eco-Libris has balanced out more than 150,000 books, resulting in more than 165,000 new trees planted with its planting partners in developing countries.

Thursday 4 November 2010

The Golden Hour Book 2

I posted recently (here!) about Edinburgh's Forest cafe being threatened with closure. The cafe is much more than a rather chaotic vegetarian cafe, it is also a creative hub, one part of which is Forest Publications. Forest Publications hold the monthly Golden Hour event, which is a wonderful mix of music, short stories, poetry and cartoons. I recently won a copy of the Golden Hour Book 2 on Twitter. It is the second compilation of words from Golden Hour evenings so far, including pieces from Kona McPhee, Robert Alan Jamieson, Claire Askew and Ryan van Winkle. It also includes a CD of music, which in my case doesn't play, which is a shame, particularly as it includes a track from the brilliant Billy Liar.

If you're a regular at Golden Hour then this book and CD is a wonderful reminder of some of the best writing and sounds from the event, if you've never been to Golden Hour then the book offers a taste of what it's like! Either way it is an excellent read.

Two extracts, biased as ever on this blog to environmental and nature themes, which aren't typical of the publication in general:

from Fen Train by Kona MacPhee:

a flock of swans, unshepherded
grazes the chocolate soil,
their poise recalling long drained meres

from The Birds Like (a very short story about bullying) by Phil Harrison

It was starlings. There was one, two and then they came, hundreds of them, I swear, hundreds, and they were moving like there were threads between them, like they were tied together. They dropped, sudden, a dive, then they rose again, glidin, like they weren't even trying and it was beautiful.

The Golden Hour Book 2 published by Forest Publications. £8 including CD

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Seasonal Foods

I blogged recently about it being apple season (you can read that post here). We're eating a lot of apple crumbles at the moment! This got me thinking about the seasonality of food. These days, if you buy food from a supermarket or a large grocer you are likely not to notice that there is such a thing as seasonal food (except for pumpkins at Hallowe'en and Brussels sprouts at Christmas). Fruit and vegetables are imported from across the globe so that we can eat what we want when we want. The planes and ships that transport the food produce a lot of greenhouse gases, which cause climate change. Produce that travels halfway across the world has lost quality and taste by the time it reaches our plates.

Also I think we've forgotten some of the enjoyment of food being seasonal. Strawberries are much more special if you can only eat them for a few weeks of the year and the local grown ones taste so much better.

When I lived in Malawi, the seasonality of food was much more obvious, largely because there were no large supermarkets. There were no pineapples for most of the year and then for two weeks (in November I seem to remember?) there seemed to be nothing but pineapples, which we bought and hoarded in our kitchen. A month later there were no more pineapples and we had to wait 11 months for the next one.

Seasonal food helps to reconnect us with, well, the seasons and the natural cycles that we are a part of, much though most of us try to deny it.

Eat the Seasons is an online resource about seasonal food in the UK. It acknowledges that certain foods are now part of our eating experience even though they don't grow in the UK. So it advises eating Spanish oranges in season, rather than those imported from further away but suggests that importing from overseas is unnecessary when the food is grown in the UK.

Monday 1 November 2010

Poetry in Motion Festival

Edinburgh Filmnouse is showing a season of poetic films. There are some films that I would have included in there that you won't get a chance to see (including Slam the wonderful film about a prison writer in residence who totally changes a prisoner's life and Pandeamonium about the life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

However I'm delighted to see that the excellent documentary on the Russian poet Boris Ryzhy will be showing.  Ryzhy is sometimes referred to as the last Soviet poet, and tragically committed suicide at the age of 26 in 2001. The documentary (called simply Boris Ryzhy) is beautifully made, with beautiful meditative scenes of industrial cityscapes covered in snow interwoven with birch woodland and archive footage of Ryzhy reading and smoking. One of the best features of the film was that Ryzhny's poetry was read over large sections of it. You can find out more about Ryzhy and the film and read some of his poetry on his website. I saw this film at last year's Edinburgh International Film Festival and I may well go back to see it again.

Boris Ryzhy will be showing at the Filmhouse 15.45, Saturday 13 November

Sunday 31 October 2010

Saturday 30 October 2010

Guided Walks and Teaching

Over the past few weeks I've been teaching a course on environmental writing for the University of Edinburgh Office of Lifelong Learning and leading guided walks for Edinburgh Council Adult and Community Education. I lead a series of guided walks along the Water of Leith and birdwatching walks for the Beginners Birdwatching Class (which I was asked to teach at short notice as the previous tutor had to retire for medical reasons).

Today I attended an excellent course at Edinburgh Council designed to help adult education tutors to improve their teaching skills and generally share ideas. I was pleased to meet other tutors who teach creative writing and other subjects where we could discuss common themes and issues.

Teaching in a classroom is very different to leading a guided walk. In a classroom, one has much more control over the learning experience, which can be much more structured. It's also easier to evaluate how well the teaching is going. The walks are much more freely structured. The Water of Leith walks are easier because there are lots of points of historic interest to talk about and there's a nature observation element to the walk so there's plenty of interaction. The birdwatching walks are more challenging, because to have a good chance of seeing a lot of birds, one should be quiet. A group of 12 people walking together cannot fail to make a certain amount of noise. Too little interaction with the group makes me a poor tutor but too much risks disturbing the birds and not being so observant of those that are around! Also it's largely due to luck how many birds we see! Sometimes we've been very lucky and had wonderful sightings (for example a very close view of a hunting kestrel that then posed for us in a tree) but other times we've not been so lucky. We have mostly had good weather and everyone has enjoyed the walks but even so, sometimes there can be a sense of not having had enough birdwatching!

The council courses are a very good example of how volunteering can lead to paid employment, as the Water of Leith Conservation Trust (who I volunteer for, looking after a stretch of the river) had recommended me to the council when they were looking for new tutors. My volunteering work was also the reason the University had asked me to put together and run a course about the Water of Leith, which I taught in August and will run again next summer.

By the way, if you had expressed interest in doing my Environmental Writing Course via email, I haven't forgotten you and I'll be in touch about this in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Autumn Birds

Vivid autumnal leaves bright against a perfect blue sky. Two buzzards glide into view in the clearing.

A heron fishes in front of the weir as golden leaves fall onto the river.

A mixed flock of tits scurry through the trees, eating the berries, calling softly to each other.

Two grey wagtails chase each other round and round the river.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Cr*p at the Environment by Mark Watson

This is the ideal antidote to the gloom and doom environmental books I read recently Six Degrees and Field Notes from a Catrastrophe. Those were important books and should be read by anyone who cares about the current climate crisis. However this book is entertaining and practical and enthuses the reader to take action. Mark Watson is a comedian who was won over to the environmental cause by a variety of things including Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth. Mark then set up an organisation he called Crap at the Environment for people like him who didn't know much about the environment but recognised it as an important issue and wanted to learn more and moer importantly take action in their own lives. The book follows his efforts to reduce his carbon footprint including trying to learn to ride a bike, grow his own food and cut down on air travel ( a particular challenge for a comedian with a successful international career). He shares his successes and his failures and is entertaining and inspiring. The book also includes a lot of practical information and resources to help everyone to become Better at the Environment. 

Crap at the Environment by Mark Watson published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2008.

Tuesday 26 October 2010


It's apple season and Crafty Green Boyfriend's parents have two apple trees in their garden, so we're inundated with apples at the moment. One of their trees is a cooking apple tree and these apples make wonderful apple crumbles. I've almost perfected my apple crumble recipe, though I've found that the ones I am less careful with turn out better, which I find is often the way with my cooking!

The other tree is an eating apple tree, we're not sure what variety, though we think it's the Laxton's Superb. It's a wonderful apple, slightly crisp, not too sweet and quite juicy but not too much. It has a lovely taste too, totally different from the packaged apples available in most shops. Actually I rarely eat apples, unless they come from Crafty Green Boyfriend's parents' garden.

Find out all about apples, orchard and apple varieties on Orange Pippin.
Abundance Edinburgh is an organisation devoted to orchard and apples in Edinburgh.

(red text in this post links to external websites, where you can find out more)

Sunday 24 October 2010

playground haiku

children's playground -
a crow balances
on a swing

previously published in Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society

Saturday 23 October 2010

Cuts to the Countryside

The UK Government is planning sweeping cuts to public spending. Many of the cuts affect wildlife and the environment. For example there are plans to privatise Natural Nature Reserves and ask wildlife charities to run them. RSPB and other environmental charities have an excellent track record of running wildlife reserves but they need money to do this. It seems unlikely that this government (which likes to present itself as the greenest government ever) would in the current economic climate give charities extra cash. So it looks likely that wildlife will lose out.

One piece of good news though is that money for wildlife friendly farming looks set to stay in place. This means that farmland birds, which have really declined in numbers recently will continue to be given the protection they need so that their numbers have some chance of recovering. One example that shows very clearly how wildlife friendly farming can make a difference is the recent increase in number of corncrakes in Scotland.

Today, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I joined 20 000 other people to march through the centre of Edinburgh to protest at the Government Cuts. It felt like a real flashback to the 1980s when we were students protesting against the Thatcher Government. It was less well organised and there was less chanting, but I guess we'll have plenty of chances to improve our protesting skills over the next few months.

Friday 22 October 2010

Water Birds Reflect

 mute swans and Canada geese seen on Dunsapie Loch, Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh last Saturday, as photographed by Crafty Green Boyfriend 

Thursday 21 October 2010

The Forest Cafe

The Forest is a volunteer run, not-for-profit arts and events space and veggie café in the heart of Edinburgh. All events are free. All are welcome to help, admire or perform. We are You. You is Us. For more information go to our real website.

Unfortunately the building where the Forest is currently located is for sale. So the Forest is holding a series of fundraising events to raise funds to buy the building. You can find out more on their Facebook page or on their website.

The Forest also runs a publishing house that publishes a variety of books, as you can see from this list (and I'll be reviewing one of them soon on this blog!) and a record company (you can see a list of their recordings here.) They also have a library of radical books (and hats!) and are a venue for fringe theatre.

All in all the Forest is a great centre for alternative culture in Edinburgh and it would be a real shame to see it close.