Monday, 27 August 2012


I'm enjoying the last few weeks of real summer and the remaining blooms in the garden. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

the 5 most adorable children on the internet

1. A 3 year-old explains the plot of Star Wars. 
2. A sneaky mom eats all her sons' Halloween candy. 
3. Jessica feels good about her day. 
4. Another serious 3-year old explains leprechauns.
5. 5 year-old wants a job before marriage. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012


Such dusky grandeur clothed the height
Where the huge castle holds its state
And all the steep slope down
Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky
Piled deep and massy, close and high,
Mine own romantic town!

At school the windows in my history classroom looked right out onto the crags and Edinburgh castle. My awesome teacher had pinned Walter Scott's poem above right next to it. That was the great thing about him, he was always setting up connections in our brains between history, poetry, theatre, art, so that eventually we'd come across a point in our own lives and go 'Ah. That's what he meant.' 

This week I started an internship at the European Parliament, right next to the Scottish Parliament building, and it struck me that the poem could be describing that landmark too. The building has been surrounded in controversy, partly because it exceeded its budget terribly, partly because many people just don't like it. 

Maybe it's having an architect for a father, but I love it. It seems to grow organically out of the volcanic rock of Arthur's Seat, utterly modern and yet somehow primordial at the same time. Isn't that just what a parliament should be? It eases itself into the landscape, so on sunny days the stone benches, nooks and crannies, grassy ledges and shallow pools are full of people relaxing and playing. It's both imposing and inviting, and that is no mean feat. 

a small rant

A small rant about hipster motivational graphics floating around on the interwebz. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

town mouse country mouse

When I was at school, I was preoccupied with the contrast I felt between going to school in the city right in the centre of Edinburgh, and coming home to the countryside. The two became kind of bigger categories in my mental landscape. Town was people, doing, growing, consuming. Country was were you went to retreat back into yourself, a haven to just be. Even now I find the fields and the forest powerfully restorative. In my final year I was lucky to have an encouraging headmaster who made us think about what a poem was and taught creative writing. This story was the result.  


Henry’s footsteps crackled and thudded over a field of broken corn stalks, his mud-encrusted boots slowly becoming obscured by the early afternoon mist. Even in his distraction he was alert to the bite of a wind picking up against him, to the rush of a stream half a mile away. Even as the branches tied to his bag chafed the back of his neck, May’s voice was still soft and echoing in his ears.

There had been a grey wind whistling over the flat land the first time it had happened. Just a boy, he had thought it was the wind that was making the branch he’d picked up for a sling-shot bend upwards in his hands. But it happened again, the switch of hazel was twitching and twisting as if charged with energy. Henry’s father looked up from setting his traps under the hedge, saw him staring down. A superstitious man, raised on vague warnings linked with the weather and the birds - trappers’ stories. Jim knew when a gale was blowing and when something even less tangible was at work. “You’ve got the gift, lad,” he called through the weather, proud and dimly jealous. “My father had it too. There’s water running under your feet, sure as anything.”
“What?” Henry was enchanted, could barely drag his eyes up.
“Dowsing. Water divining, some folk call it. A man can make a living off that, lad. Course, I doubt most just happen upon it.” But Henry wasn’t thinking about earning a living. Jim turned back to the sharp rough metal of the trap jaws, exasperated at his faraway son.

Henry remembered grasping hold of the new phrase -‘water divining’- that made so much sense to him, putting a meaning and a name to the natural awareness he’d always felt. He’d always studied clouds, fox holes, unripe berries.  Now as he grew up, quiet and wiry with hair like upturned soil, he spent hours and weeks outside setting traps or labouring, and he began to listen for needle-piercing rain before it fell, or for trickles under stones. His ability soon set him apart, and he used it as an excuse for his loneliness. As time passed, the more he attuned himself with the seasons and elements, the easier it became to find water under the ground, and the harder it was to find the right words, or understanding in people’s eyes. 

Henry remembered how it had been discovered by the rest of the village. He’d been at the tavern with his father, a new practice into which he’d been initiated only recently. Tracks were turning brittle with the start of winter, and work was drying up, and Jim was chasing away the darkness of the drawing-in evenings with copious amounts of cider. “My boy can find you water from five miles away!” he was boasting to a farmhand, his face ruddy with the drink and the glow of the fire. “He can smell a beck in the air, he can!”
“Jim Traverse, that son of yours couldn’t find the sea if you set him on the cliffs of Dover, he’s that away with the fairies…” Henry had broken up a brewing brawl stemming from Jim’s objection to the word ‘fairy’ in relation to his only son, and led his father home, thankful for his blustering faith.

As the pearly fog drew close around him, Henry had only the sound of his steps and snatches of memories for companionship: the rattling, pervading elation he’d felt on finding a river’s undiscovered tributary, and on actually being paid for the water it would give the fields, and most importantly on being recognised. The universal sense of wistfulness and beginnings when he left home to find new work. After that, the years became a blur of villages and seasonal jobs with ever-changing farms and the feel of bark and wood in his hands. As Henry continued striding, he recalled how in those years the sound of water was always in his ears. The booming of an unexpected waterfall, quiet lap of a still pool, gush of a hurried brook. Until that summer – until May. The crunching of the ground underfoot slowed as his thoughts turned to her.

He’d been working at that farm for just over a week, bringing in the hay and corn, when he heard the farmer wanted to build a new well. He saw May first when he went to her father, cap in hand, spoke to him in the sunny cobbled courtyard. She was carrying a tray out to the fields and seemed both to perfectly belong to the golden and cornflower-blue scene and to look right into him. She was there when he went to the edge of the farm with his hazel branches, distracting him. He tried to concentrate on the arc-shaped bough, to feel the warmth in the soil, to let the rush of water there in his head intensify and drown out her laughter. He knew there was water there, he had found it the week before, but her presence infused him and left no room for the craft he’d perfected.

“Are you going to tell me where to build my well now, young man?” her father asked him a few days later, still sceptical despite what he had heard about the boy. For the first time, Henry had to admit that he couldn’t. All summer long, the claws of ravens that would perch on him became replaced by May’s brown fingers curled into his. At night he stopped gazing at stars and they talked together. Then autumn came; Henry realised he was no better at finding a pheasant nest than the next man and suddenly the full extent of what he had lost seemed to leave him like a ghost, characterless. He left, to blindly search again for the consciousness that had shaped him.

But now the joy of the last months crowded back and her last words resounded - “You can’t just go on forever, Henry…” He slowed to a halt and drew over his shoulder the boughs tied to his pack. He was tired of having only his strides and the beat of wings to fall in rhythm with the drum of his heart. He couldn’t move seamlessly in concert with the seasons, but now he could place himself within them. Better to divine water or people?

The branches fell to the ground, and the mists lifted as his boots turned back the direction they’d come.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

5 things that make me happy to be a human

Postsecret asks fifty people one question. 
Dan Savage talks about the secret to being content in your relationship. 
Robert Webb recites a poem his girlfriend - now wife - wrote to woo him. 
A couple married 62 years entertains people waiting at a clinic.
An African woman plays the guitar in a unique way. 

That is all :) 

Monday, 6 August 2012

last of landan

My last few days in London were perfect - we wandered round galleries and museums, caught my new favourite film Moonrise Kingdom in a sweet wee picture house, ate till we burst at a buffet in Chinatown and indulged in late night shopping on Regent Street. Who knew that shopping for your boyfriend is just as much fun as shopping for yourself?

I also enjoyed prancing in and out of all the little delis and coffee shops around Sloane Square, pretending to be in Made in Chelsea... justfied by all the art and Shakespeare, I feel. 

london evenings


1. Strolling along the Thames
3. Gabby's charming portrait of me in the Tate Modern
4. Catching The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe Theatre (as lowly groundlings)
5. Peruvian food and deadly pisco infusion shots in Soho

summer hodilays

Yesterday it poured with rain, so after a week of wandering it was great to watch the Olympics and spend a couple of hours making another wee film. Music by Brazilian Girls.  

Sunday, 5 August 2012


We ate like kings in Londres, working our way round the globe for dinner every night: Japan, China, Spain, Peru, Italy. Coming from Edinburgh, it was actually quite a culture shock to get used to the size and busy-ness of the city and the sheer choice available to us. 

We came across Tombo on our way home from the V&A. I loved it: fresh, stylish and fast traditional Japanese food with a selection that was just big enough without being overwhelming. I'm already getting miso cravings. 

london wanderings

After an amazing week with my family in England, I caught a train from Birmingham down to London to visit Gabby. Quite apart from seeing him for the first time in a month, the atmosphere in the city was terrific because of the Olympics: busy and chaotic, but also carnivalistic. Walking round Hyde Park, we caught the men's cycling finals zooming by. Volunteers everywhere did their best to regiment the crowds with classic British stoicism and humour (see here for my favourite example). I quickly became addicted to jumping on and off the tube. I cannot wait to live there in the near future. 

lock cottage!

Our second holiday stay turned out to be even more bucolic than the last. To reach the house, we had to get through three gates and three fields of sheep, then cross a stone bridge with a wheelbarrow for our luggage. It was well worth the hike though: Lock Cottage was absolutely charming, with its brick terrace overlooking a meadow that trapped the sun and the canal boats that moored outside every night. We spent hours reading, playing whist, eating antipasti in the sun and climbing on the locks. I felt like Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Without the coercion and hard labour. Yes. 


1.  Hardy country
2.  Osborne House, Queen Victoria's holiday residence
4.  Dad keeping cool/ doing a David Hume impression
5.  Idyllic walled gardens
10. Cirencester 
11. An impromptu beach trip to the south coast; our camp   consisted of a dust sheet and two golf umbrellas. 
12. Portsmouth Harbour, Dad's heaven 
13. In the orchard at Hanley Hall, a Tudor mansion