Thursday 30 June 2016

What now for the UKs environment post Brexit?

So the UK voted to leave the European Union. I have blogged before about how vital the EU legislation has been in terms of protecting nature and the environment and it is well known that many politicians who campaigned for us to leave the EU are not in favour of these laws, describing them as 'so much red tape'.

The EU is not perfect, nor indeed are its environmental laws, but these laws, as I say have made a difference to the state of our beaches, waterways and nature in general. The outlook for nature in this country could be dire if we discard these laws without enshrining them into UK law.

There are already many articles which explain the potential impact of us leaving the EU on our nature protection, here are some that I feel are particularly informative and concise:

UK's out vote is a 'red alert' for the environment (Guardian newspaper)

What Leaving the EU means for our environment (Scottish Wildlife Trust).

What does Brexit mean for the UK's environment? (Political Studies Association Environmental Politics)

EU departure means a tough fight to protect our environment ( Friends of the Earth Scotland)

Letter from Conservation leaders to Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform in Scottish Parliament

I think this article from Ruth Davis highlights well the need to be positive. When the EU held a consultation on the fitness of purpose of the Nature Directives, millions of people across Europe demonstrated their support, with much of that support coming from people in the UK. The UK nature conservation organisations have huge numbers of members (more members than political parties). We are a country that loves nature and we will not stand at the sidelines and watch as a right wing government dismantles the laws that protect our nature, landscapes and environment. Having said that it won't be easy, we have a battle on our hands and we know from the recent referendum campaign just how sneaky our politicians can be.

Conservation organisations will be campaigning to make sure the best of the EU nature legislation is enshrined in UK law. It's early days yet and I haven't seen any detailed plans, but you can sign up here for the Friends of the Earth campaign. You can also send a message to all the political leaders in Scotland to ask them to put the environment at the heart of their thinking and actions around Scotland’s future (via Friends of the Earth Scotland).The campaign organisation 38 Degrees has now put up a petition to keep the EU nature laws, you can sign it here.

If you've been taking part in 30 Days Wild you have probably found yourself enthused about nature more than ever as a result. If you love nature you will want to make sure we can protect it as much as possible for the future. 

Campaigning for 30 Days Wild.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

colourful insects for 30Days Wild

I was happy to find these colourful insects today along the John Muir Walkway in Musselburgh

These are (I think) green nettle weevils

and this is a Xyphosia miliaria 

This species is common across the UK, according to Nature Spot, but according to Crafty Green Boyfriend (who knows these things) it has very rarely been recorded in Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothians. Yet very recently someone else added a photo of this species to the Edinburgh Wildlife Group on Flickr. So the moral of the story is, record your wildlife sightings! I'll be sending these sightings (and others) from today to the Wildlife Information Centre for Edinburgh and the Lothians. They then use people's observations of wildlife towards informing conservation work and preventing inappropriate development on areas that are important for wildlife.

I was also impressed with these fungi, though I'm not sure what species they are - any ideas?

Also lovely to see the mute swans coming in on the tide

and these male eiders in their eclipse plumage, so they don't look like their usual selves and they don't look all the same either!

for 30 Days Wild.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Monday 27 June 2016

Orchids for 30 Days Wild

Lovely to see the common spotted orchids in full bloom in the grassy areas alongside the Water of Leith today.

The orchid field (unsurprisingly) is full of orchids, though they are difficult to see in this photo

the very marshy ground makes it difficult to get close to individual blooms but I did get these two photos (the orchids are the spikes of pinkish flowers, surrounded in both photos by buttercups

Then I was very happy to see this common spotted orchid in the meadow near Redhall Gardens, where I've never seen the orchids before (though of course they could have been hiding in the grasses over the past few years)

For 30 Days Wild and Nature Notes.

Saturday 25 June 2016

Nature events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

I put together this list of nature-related events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for Living Edinburgh. These events all still had tickets available at the time of writing (I've not necessarily used the titles for the events as given in the brochure, but if you click on the links below you'll be taken straight to the appropriate booking page on the book festival website):

10.30, Tuesday 16 August Scottish Arcadias with Philip Hoare, Magnus Linklater and Alison Turnbull.

1845, Tuesday 16 August Tracey Chevalier talks about At the Edge of the Orchard.

1145, Friday 19 August poetry from Alice Oswald.

11.00 Saturday 20 August, Reading workshop Robert Hunter on The Jungle Book

2045, Monday 22 August Nature writing with Jim Crumley and Stephen Moss.

1600, Wednesday 24 August Opening up our House with Tobias Jones.

2045, Thursday 25 August Tracking down Birds of Prey with James MacDonald Lockart.

1015, Friday 26 Nature Writing with Melissa Harrison and Amy Liptrot.

1730. Saturday 27 August, Lost heroes of Science with Steve Jones and Andrea Wulf.

1845, Monday 29 August Surviving the Vast Forest with Ray Mears.

Nature themed book events for Children 
(I've included all types of animals here, including pets, imaginary species and human type characters in the guise of animals)

1145, Sunday 14 August  Unconventional Animal Friendships with Ed Vere (age 3-6).

1330, Sunday  14 August, animal illustrations with Barroux (age 3-6).

1545, Sunday 14 August, Danger with Chris Judge and David O'Doherty. (age 7-10)

1000, Monday 15 August Unconventional Animal friendships with Ed Vere. (age 3-6).

1030, Monday 15 August Illustration with Barroux, Chris Houghton and Emer Stamp (age 10+).

1145, Monday 15 August Hercufleas with Sam Gayton (age 8-12).

1330, Monday 15 August Getting Muddy with Emer Stamp (age 5-8).

1400, Monday 15 August, Animal Introductions with Nicola Davies and Petr Horacek. (age 4-7).

14.30 Monday 15 August, drop in drawing workshop with Ana and Thiago de Moraes. (all ages).

1515 Monday 15 August, Canine Capers with Richard Byrne (age 3-6).

1000, Tuesday 16 August, Animal Mashup with Ana and Thiago de Moraes. (age 4-7).

13.30 Tuesday 16 August Getting Muddy with Emer Stamp. (age 5-8).

1515 Tuesday 16 August animal illustration with Petr Horacek. (age 4+).

1545 Tuesday 16 August Heroes of the Wild with Nicola Davies. (age 9-12).

1700, Tuesday 16 August animal illustration with Claire Maker and Ross Collins. (age 7-10).

11am - 3pm Willow sculpture (drop in) with David Powell (all ages).

1330, Wednesday 17 August Let Your Kinds Go Wild Outside with with Fiona Bird. (ages 7+)

1515, Wednesday 17 August Midnight at the Zoo (and make an animal mask!) with Faye Hanson (age 4-7).

1000, Thursday 18 August Hiccuping animals with Holly Sterling (age 3-6).

11am - 3pm Willow Sculpture (drop in) with David Powell (all ages).

15.15, Thursday 18 August Going Wild with Fiona Bird (age 7+).

1145, Friday 19 August Hibernating Hedgehogs with Cate James (age 4-7).

13.30, Friday 19 August Beautiful Birds with Matt Spink (age 4-7).

1700, Friday 19 August Furball Fun with Holly Webb (age 5-8).

1000, Saturday 20 August, Cornelia Funke and the Terrible Tab (age 5-8).

11.00 Saturday 20 August, free drop in Big Draw with Matt Spink. (all ages).

1330 Saturday 20 August The Bolds with Julian Vlary and David Roberts. (age 6+).

13.30 Saturday 20 August Mythical Scottish Sea Stories and Crafts (free drop in, all ages).

13.30 Saturday 20 August Holly Webb's Furry Friends (age 5-8).

1400 Saturday 20 August Talking to Animals with Sophie Thompson (age 6-9).

1515 Saturday 20 August The Jungle Book Retold with Robert F Hunter (age 4-7).

1700 Saturday 20 August Baxter the Giant Beetle with M G Leonard (age 10-14).

1000, Sunday 21 August Magical Monsters with Kristina Stephenson (age 4-7).

1030 Sunday 21 August  The Great Diamond Chase with Tracey Corderoy & Steven Lenton (age 4-7).

12.15 Sunday 21August The Howlet with Kate Leiper and James Robertson (age 7 - 10).

1500 Sunday 21 August A Girl's Best  Friend with Ann M Martin (age 10+).

1630, Sunday 21 August Revealing Life's Mysteries with Gill Arbuthnott (ages 8 - 12).

1345 Monday 22 August Archie the Impatient Rhino with Tracey Corderoy & Tim Warnes (age 3-6).

1330, Wednesday 24 August Odd Dog Out with Rob Biddulph (age 3-6).

1145, Thursday 25 August Odd Dog Out with Rob Biddulph (age 3-6).

1515 Thursday 25 August Japanese Melodies and Myths with Mio Shipley (age 3+).

1700 Thursday 25 August Amazing Plants with Christiane Dorion (age 7-10).

1745 Thursday 25 August Creature Companions with Louis de Bernieres and Gill Lewis (age 10+).

11.00 Friday 26 August A Birthday Party with the Large Family with Jill Murphy (free drop-in all ages).

1430 Friday 26 August Alex T Smith's Big Draw (all ages, free drop-in).

1545, Friday 26 August New Bear on the Block with Sav Akyuz & Ben Bailey Smith (age 4-7).

1415 Saturday 27 August Furry Friends (Humphrey the Hamster) with Betty G Birney (age 7-10).
I love the Humphrey books! You can read my read my review of Humphrey's adventures here).

1000 Sunday 28 August The Great Aaa-Ooo with Jonny Lambert (age 3-6).

1030 Sunday 28 August Monkeying Around with Lydia Monks. (age 4-7).

1330 Sunday 28 August Mr Cleghorns Seal with Judith Kerr (age 10+).

13.30 Sunday 28 August Peter the Badger with Emily Gravett (age 4-7).

1430 Sunday 28 August Hrefna Bragadottir's Big Draw (free drop in, all ages).

1515, Sunday 28 August Bear's Adventure with Benedict Blathwayt (age 3-6).

1315, Monday 29 August Baxter's Starring Role with Hrefna Bragadottir (age 3-6).

1500, Monday 29 August The Shrew that Flew with Julia Copus (age 3-6).

Water of Leith Roseburn to Stockbridge

Crafty Green Boyfriend and I walked this section of the Water of Leith today. The water is very heavy with sediment at the moment, probably due to the flood prevention work that's going on upstream from this section (I've emailed the Water of Leith Conservation Trust for an update on how this sediment might be affecting the river ecology).

It's still a very pretty stretch of the river to walk along, with some lovely riverside buildings in the Dean Village

and we saw a dipper, mallards and this grey heron, who was posing for a crowd of photographers in Stockbridge.

The mallards didn't have ducklings and I wouldn't be surprised if the heron was to blame....

I also noticed this lovely fern wall - the large fern is harts tongue, the smaller is maidenhair spleenwort.

And I was pleased to see this new notice from the local community council

For 30 Days Wild.

Friday 24 June 2016

What will leaving the EU mean for environmental protection in the UK?

Last night the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union.

I had voted to remain in the EU as I feel that European legislation has been on balance very important in protecting UK nature and wildlife. You can read my earlier blogpost about this here.

It will take at least two years of negotiations I think before the UK will actually leave the EU. In that time, environmentalists need to ensure that the EU laws that protect our environment become enshrined in UK law. It is of course early days and we don't know how things will pan out, but many politicians in the Conservative government have seen the EU laws that protect the environment as red tape that they would happily get rid of. So it means that we may have a fight on our hands to make sure that those laws aren't lost. Greenpeace and many other environmental organisations will be acting to try to ensure a safe future for our environment.

Here are some articles on the topic:

UK's Out vote is a red alert for the environment (Guardian newspaper).

Scottish Environment Link reaction to EU Referendum result

Brexit - fight on to save environment and climate progress (Friends of the Earth Scotland).

We Must Now avoid a rush to the bottom (Green Alliance).

Brexit: Putting nature in the firing line (Friends of the Earth)

Take part in discussions on the aftermath of the referendum on the Greenpeace UK Facebook page.

Neither Wolf Nor Dog - film review

This film follows writer Kent Nerburn (Christophier Sweeney) as he travels with native American / Indian elder Dan (Chief Dave Bald Eagle) who chooses to refer to himself as Indian, and his best friend to find the truth of the native American / Indian experience. It is an eye opening film that doesn't shy away from portraying the cultural misunderstandings between Nerburn and Dan, nor does it flinch from the struggles of the Indian peoples against the white colonisers of their land and the enduring shadow that history casts over communities and families.

I was to some extent confused by this film, I had expected it to be a documentary, which it obviously isn't, then I thought it was a dramatisation of a real life story, but then I read that Nerburn's book Neither Wolf nor Dog is a novel, but after reading reviews of the book I think mostly it's a true story. Certainly the stories that Dan tells of his people's lives are truth, and truth that we all could benefit from hearing.

I do however suspect that in terms of really learning about the history and lives of native Americans / Indians, the book will offer much more than the film, which isn't a criticism of the film, it's just an acknowledgement that a book can pack much more substance into its pages than this film packed into its 90 minutes, insightful though those 90 minutes are.

Neither Wolf nor Dog is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

1805, 24 June at Odeon.

 You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

Endless Night.

The Lure

Homo Sapiens

Belles Familles.

The Olive Tree.

 Death is Only the Beginning - my review of The Correspondence and The Library Suicides.

The Mine.

The Islands and the Whales.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

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

Thursday 23 June 2016

Edinburgh's best roadside verge in bloom for 30 days Wild

I made a point today of getting off the bus at Edinburgh's best roadside verge to take some photos. Strictly speaking it's not really a roadside verge, but it sits between London Road and Lower London Road and the past couple of years has looked wonderful at this time of year. Here's a selection of my photos from today.

for 30 Days Wild.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Tree bumblebees and fledging blue tits for 30 Days Wild

Tree bumblebees are relatively new to Scotland, I saw my first here last year. They are adorable looking insects and today I was delighted to find a cotoneaster bush literally buzzing with tree bumblebees, common carders and white tailed / buff tailed bumblebees (its a tree bumblebee in the photo).

The photo isn't the best in the world, but those bees whizz around at some speed and my camera battery died after only three photos!

It was also lovely today to find two separate families of blue tits fledging in trees in the Meadows, bouncing from branch to branch above my head. Young blue tits are so cute with their little yellow faces..... Sorry, no photos, but as I mentioned above, the camera battery failed me.... (plus sometimes its just nice to stand and watch, without worrying about focussing a camera etc)

Endless Night - film review

Endless Night is the heavily fictionalised story of Josephine Peary, played by Juliette Binoche) an arctic explorer who in the early years of the 20th Century set sail to meet her husband the explorer Robert Peary who was on his way to the north pole.

Josephine sets off into the arctic ice with two Inuit guides and Bram (Gabriel Byrne) despite everyone telling her she was foolish. Even after Bram's death she refuses to take anyone's advice and forces the guides to accompany her further. She eventually finds herself at her husband's base camp shack where she meets Allaka (Rinko Kikuchi) who turns out to be Robert Peary's mistress.

The heart of the film focuses on the relationship between the two women, but it is also a study of Western colonialist attitudes. Josephine tries to show Allaka that using cutlery properly is more important than finding nutritious local food. She states bluntly that the Inuit reverence for nature and respect for hard weather is nothing compared to her husband's world changing conquering of the North Pole. She chastises Allaka for casually sleeping with her husband, while Allaka sees no problem with having kept a man warm in cold weather.

The difficulty of surviving the arctic cold is very clearly evoked in this film, as the two women resort to ever more desperate measures to find food and heat.

Will the two women bury their differences and come to some kind of mutual understanding through the long Arctic winter? Will they ever be reunited with Robert Peary?

This is an edited version of the 2015 film No-one wants the Night. 

Endless Night is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

1820, 24 June at Filmhouse and 1540, 25 June at Odeon.

 You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

The Lure

Homo Sapiens

Belles Familles.

The Olive Tree.

 Death is Only the Beginning - my review of The Correspondence and The Library Suicides.

The Mine.

The Islands and the Whales.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

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

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Homo Sapiens - film review

Homo Sapiens, directed by Nickolaus Geyrhalter, is a profoundly depressing meditation on the possible end of human civilisation. There is no human presence in the film, no people are seen, there's no dialogue and no voice-over. The static cameras show us various abandoned sites including theatres, places of worship, settlements, fun fairs, medical facilities and offices. There are no subtitles to give context or to tell us where the sites are. The only sounds are wind, rain, birds and insects, the only movement is that of birds, or things being moved by the wind.

The lack of voice-over or other context allows the viewer to imagine the story behind each site - why was this place abandoned? In some cases it seems clear - the funfair drowning in the rising tides, the settlement abandoned to the encroaching sands, the nuclear installation abandoned after a nuclear catastrophe, the buildings destroyed by war, but others are much less obvious. I found myself wondering why didn't people go back and salvage the materials from these offices? Why haven't they demolished the structures and replaced them? It's just so much loss of potential for the buildings and for the land they stand on.

In some cases nature has started to reclaim the buildings. Even so, however beautiful it is to see ferns growing over an abandoned village, doves flying in and out of an abandoned tower or birds of prey circling over cooling towers, I was left mostly with a sense of despondence.

This is the end of human civilisation.

Homo Sapiens is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

2055, 23 June and 1305, 25 June both at Cineworld.

  You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

Belles Familles.

The Olive Tree.

 Death is Only the Beginning - my review of The Correspondence and The Library Suicides.

The Mine.

The Islands and the Whales.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

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

Pay attention to the details for 30 Days Wild!

I took a trip to Musselburgh today as I often do. It was lovely to see the young birds, like this family of mute swans

and these mallard ducklings (there were another four ducklings and mother was nearby, but I couldn't get them all in the one photo)

I enjoyed watching the bees amongst the clover (though I might have hoped to see more bees). Look how this one is weighing down one of the individual flowers in the inflorescence! (Click on the photo for a larger view)

The poppies are lovely just now (and I hope to get some photos of the poppies and other flowers in my favourite roadside verge in the next couple of days). Look at the fallen pollen in the centre of the petals in this poppy

I noticed that some of the rocks by the side of the John Muir Walkway were covered in red mites (but only some of the rocks). I wonder why only some of the rocks?

 Last year I blogged about seeing them in early July, here. But before that I hadn't seen them in any number since as a child, I used to see them all over the walls in my parents garden on hot summer days.

I also noticed the patterns on this snail shell.

If you keep an eye out for the details they're always something new to see!

Also keep your ears open too! I recently read that skylarks often include snatches of other birds songs in their own songs. At this time of year, the skylarks are always singing along the John Muir Walkway and today was no exception. I listened and listened but they sounded purely like skylarks, I couldn't hear any other bird sounds in there. Such glorious music, skylarksong and I'm very happy that I can hear it so frequently as skylarks are sadly declining in numbers in this country.

For 30 Days Wild.

Monday 20 June 2016

Belles Familles - film review

Jerome Varenne (Mathieu Almaric) pays an unexpected visit to his mother (Nicole Garcia) in France en route between Shanghai (where he works) and London (where he and his colleague and fiance (Chen Lin (played by Gemma Chan)) are due at an important meeting). What is intended as a flying visit is extended as Jerome becomes involved in the family's protracted wrangling over their country estate in Ambray.

The action of the film centres on the family melodrama as secrets are revealed and enmities come to the surface. In the background is the local governmental power play over the fate of the family's estate and in fact other green spaces in the town. Will the mayor preserve the family's historical home or will he allow to become the focal point of a luxury gated community or will it in fact disappear in a new industrial zone?

I wanted to know more about the way the local government was working here but for the balance of the overall film it was right that those issues were pushed into the background and after all isn't that how it happens in reality? We're all more interested in who's sleeping with who than in the future of our communities and too many people are only interested in country estates and green spaces for the money they can make out of them.

That sounds cynical of me, but don't let it put you off watching this film which is entertainingly melodramatic all the way through. And the background story about rampant development of green spaces may strike a chord with a lot of people (certainly with residents of Edinburgh).

Belles Familles is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

2030, 22 June and 1530, 25 June both at Cineworld.

 You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

The Olive Tree.

 Death is Only the Beginning - my review of The Correspondence and The Library Suicides.

The Mine.

The Islands and the Whales.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

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

Bee Happy for 30 Days Wild

I was very happy to see a lot of bees in Colinton Dell today. This area of comfrey was buzzing with buff tailed and white tailed bumble bees, plus a fair number of common carder bumble bees.

Only this red tailed bumble bee allowed me to photograph it though

This brambly area was also full of bees, as well as the buff and white tailed bees and common carders there was a tree bumble bee in here, though it didn't stop for a photo

I was delighted to see and photograph this lovely pellucid hoverfly (Volucella pellucens)

Apparently the larvae of this hoverfly live in the nests of social wasps and bumblebees, eating waste products and the bee larvae.

For 30 Days Wild.

Saturday 18 June 2016

Edinburgh Canal festival

The sun finally came out today for the Canal Festival. This annual festival includes a range of food stalls, a raft race, boat trips and pony rides. It's a great chance for people to get to know the canal and is quite a lively event, specially when the weather's nice (which isn't reliable of course, this being Scotland!).

Afterwards, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I wandered further along the canal.

We met this lovely family of mallards

There were five ducklings altogether, and they spent a lot of time scrambling round in the reeds and grasses

This would hopefully keep them safe from the herring gulls that kept swooping by, these gulls would quite happily eat a young duckling. We were pleased to see that this female mallard had five ducklings, who are obviously older than the ones above

 It was also lovely to see the meadow vetchlings in bloom

for 30 Days Wild.

The Olive Tree - a film review

Alma, a young Spanish woman is devastated by her grandfather's descent into taciturn dementia and is convinced that his decline is caused partly by the recent selling off (by his sons) of an ancient olive tree from the family's olive grove.

She finds out that a German 'sustainable energy ' company bought the tree and has installed it in the lobby of their headquarters in Dusseldorf. She persuades her Uncle and also Rafa (who I wasn't quite sure whether he was a cousin or a farm employee) to accompany her to Dusseldorf to reclaim the tree and bring it home to grandfather.

Along the way her mission becomes celebrated by a group of people who recognise that the German company is not as sustainable as they claim to be.

Can the trio rescue the tree in time to help grandfather regain his health?

This is a moving film about family and the traditional connections to the land and how one tree can become the symbol for an environmental protest.

The Olive Tree is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

1800, 19 June at Cineworld and 2040, 21 June at Odeon.

You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

 Death is Only the Beginning - my review of The Correspondence and The Library Suicides.

The Mine.

The Islands and the Whales.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

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

Friday 17 June 2016

Death is Only the Beginning - a film review

"Death is only the Beginning" is a quote from the brilliant The Library Suicides which got it's world premier today at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. It is a phrase that could equally apply to the disappointing film, The Correspondence.

I've long been fascinated by astronomy, particularly string theory which at least in theory predicates the existence of parallel universes and thus the possibility that we have doubles, and that ghosts could truly exist. So the concept behind The Correspondence appealed, two astronomers have an affair and he keeps communicating with her after his death. Plus it's by the same director as Cinema Paradiso!

Sadly, the film is a disappointment. The romance between Professor Ed Phoerum (Jeremy Irons) and student (and part time stunt woman) Amy (Olga Kurylenko) lacks emotional intensity, mostly because it consists almost entirely of her tearfully watching grainy videos of his messages from beyond the grave and interrupting her social engagements to read his text messages. It also fails as a thriller, the storyline, which in other hands could well be gripping, just comes across mostly as silly. It fails scientifically too, though towards the end there is a brief extract from Amy's research which implies the kind of thing the film was trying but failed to achieve. The highlight (really) is the beautiful chocolate labrador with big eyes who appears every now and then seemingly trying to give Amy messages from beyond the grave. Oh and the beautiful scenery of the Professor's Italian hideaway.

A much more successful film is The Library Suicides, a beautifully constructed Welsh language thriller set in the National Library of Wales. Never has a library seemed more a place of mystery and menace (and we discover a new use for those sliding, space-saving book shelving units). Twin librarians Ana and Nan (both played by Catrin Stewart) are devastated when their mother (a famous novelist) commits suicide and suspect that her biographer was actually responsible for killing her. The twins set out one night on revenge..... The narrative is tensely plotted, helped by a very atmospheric soundtrack and lighting (though at times a little more light would have been helpful). Secrets are gradually revealed along the way making for a very satisfying thriller. The setting in a library (where everything is a copy of the original as one of the twins says) is an ideal location for a meditation on memory and storytelling - whose memories are these anyway and who has the right to tell the story? Well worth watching.....

These films are showing as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival:

The Correspondence: 2035, 17 June at Filmhouse and 1520, 19 June at Odeon.

The Library Suicides:  1820, 17 June and 1545, 18 June, both at Cineworld

 You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

The Mine.

The Islands and the Whales.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

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

The Mine - a film review

Based on a true story, The Mine follows young civil servant Jussi, charged with overseeing the environmental permit for Talvivaara, a company wanting to open a large nickel mine that would bring jobs to one of the poorest parts of Scandanavia.

It slowly becomes clear that not all is well. The company is lying about the environmental assessments, lying about the level of potential pollutants in the waste water that would be produced by the mine and denying that there are sizeable uranium deposits in the area.

The action takes place largely in comfortable offices, where civil servants and business men make deals behind closed doors, turning a collective blind eye to the damage they could potentially do to the environment if things go wrong and ignoring EU regulations designed to protect the environment.

Jussi needs to decide whether he will also turn a blind eye or whether he will become whistle-blower.

Then in 2012, a tailings pond at the mine burst, resulting in a leakage of 1.4 million cubic meters of toxic water which poisoned the surrounding countryside.

The storytelling is admirable restrained and the tone and content are all too depressingly believable. 

Based on a true story, The Mine is a tense drama shining a light into the dark corners of local government corruption.

The Mine is showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival:

1815, 19 June at Odeon and 1555, 21 June at Filmhouse.

You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

The Islands and the Whales - culture and marine sustainability in the Faroes.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

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

Wednesday 15 June 2016

The Islands and the Whales - a film review

The Faroe Islands lie between the UK and Iceland, and are infamous for their whale hunts. The Islands and the Whales, a documentary film showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival takes a close look at the Faroese culture and the sustainability of the islands' traditions and the wider oceans.

The Faroes are beautiful, the landscape in this film is stunning. But life here is hard, the land is not fertile and the weather is not kind so it's difficult to grow crops or raise livestock. Traditionally the Faroese people have needed to harvest the oceans and that means eating fish, seabirds and whales.

Things are changing these days. The fishermen and bird hunters recognise that populations of their prey are declining, some of them seem to shrug their shoulders and carry on, but others show more concern. A local doctor is carrying out tests into mercury levels in the local population, aware that mercury accumulates in the whales and that is passed onto humans, leading potentially to impaired development and neurological problems. Again some people shrug their shoulders and carry on, while many are reducing their consumption of whale meat.

Representatives from Sea Shepherd visit the Faroes to try to prevent the whale hunts. It's obvious that they have no awareness of local culture or of the difficulty of finding food on the Faroes. Although I have a great deal of sympathy with the organisation, they did come across as culturally insensitive and according to a Faroese interviewed in the film, Sea Shepherd are actually strengthening local opinion in favour of whale hunting as people band together against what they see as cultural imperialism.

The Faroese feel they are losing their culture. The first roads were built only in the 1950s and things have changed rapidly since then. The narrator speaks of the old time Huldufolk, magical creatures that used to live in the islands in the days when the Faroese lived in balance with nature. However since the introduction of electricity, the Huldufolk have disappeared and the old balance has been lost. "Nature used to be big and people small, but now it's the other way round".

This is not an easy film to watch at times, featuring as it does close up scenes of whale hunts and crates full of dead puffins, but it offers important insights into culture and ocean sustainability and it seems clear to me that the local doctor has a better chance of ending the Faroese whale hunts than Sea Shepherd ever will.

The Islands and the Whales is showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival:

2045, 17 June and 1325, 19 June both at Cineworld.

Plastic waste in the oceans is one of the issues that comes up in this film, I blogged about making crafts with ocean waste in today's 30 Days Wild blogpost which you can read here.

You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

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

Crafting with Marine Litter for 30 Days Wild

Marine litter and ocean plastic waste are huge problems, and can kill wildlife. Many people now volunteer to clean up beaches (or in my case the local river) to help prevent litter reaching the oceans. (You can find out about Marine Conservation Society's Beachwatch project here).

But what can be done with the litter once it has been collected? I don't have statistics for where the litter from beach cleans goes, I'm not sure if anyone has that information. I imagine a lot of it ends up in landfill, but there are more creative things to do with it. Many people have created works of art using marine litter.

I liked this mermaid we met outside a public toilet on Shetland, completely made from waste materials found dumped in the beach and in the sea

and she's surrounded by old toilets which have been used as planters, another innovative example of re-use!

Meanwhile the closest I get to making crafts from marine litter is making things with sea glass and sea pottery. Here is a candle that has been evolving over the past few weeks. At first I surrounded the candle with shards of sea glass, then the candlewax flowed over the glass and solidified creating a sea glass candle.

Once the candle has burned right down, we can replace it with a new candle.

More genuinely crafty are my sea pottery rings which are on sale in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop.

Marine pollution is one of the reasons why many marine species are declining, a topic which is explored in The Islands and the Whales, showing at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, which I reviewed here.

For 30 Days Wild.