Posts Tagged ‘edinburgh’

Things I Love Thursday #103: springtime days out in Edinburgh edition

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

Hi Spring! Last time it was York… here’s what I’ve been up to in Edinburgh lately.

The Botanics

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

Is there a better day out on a fine day in spring in Edinburgh than a stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens? I am pretty sure there isn’t, and I am super lucky to live less than five minutes away from the Botanics’ East Gate. My sister and I went on the perfect day… within a week, the rhododendrons in pic one had already started to drop their flowers. The Kazakh pear, which is the frothy white blossomed tree in pic three, has since had all its flowers blown off and its now focussed on fruiting. And the big tree with the white buds in the last pic is in full leaf! I love wandering the same paths throughout spring and seeing the rapid growth.

The Secret Herb Garden

Secret Herb Garden, Old Pentland

Secret Herb Garden, Old Pentland

Secret Herb Garden, Old Pentland

Secret Herb Garden, Old Pentland

Yes, I have written about The Secret Herb Garden (one of Edinburgh’s best-kept secrets!) before, but when I went last time it was October, and a lot of the stock was starting to be taken into the polytunnels for the winter. Going back in spring was always on the cards and it really is very different when all the plants are back outside, beginning to grow and stretch and bud and smell amazing!

Secret Herb Garden, Old Pentland

Secret Herb Garden, Old Pentland

Secret Herb Garden, Old Pentland

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

I don’t know if I mentioned everything last time… like, they sell garden tools and supplies! I really wanted this vintage chair from the greenhouse! And of course, we returned to scratch the ears of their resident pigs!

The best part was finding a comfy, sunny seat in the greenhouse and settling down with Mark Doty’s brand new collection, Deep Lane. It’s his best yet and that’s coming from someone who thought he literally could not get any better. Buy it, buy it, I command you. It’s especially perfect for garden reading, as many of the poems are about Doty’s own garden.

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

Lovely local adventures

I keep passing the window of Maison de Moggy and spotting the kitties sunning themselves, which always makes me smile (according to the website, the two cute kitties pictured above are brothers, named Marcel and Phillipe!). Speaking of smiling…

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

Recent Edinburgh adventures...

There’s someone in my neighbourhood — Inverleith, Canonmills area — who’s been going around chalking positive, inspiring messages all over the place. I love it. My favourite is “ignore the boos, they come from the cheap seats.” I’ve been carrying that phrase with me. Other things they’ve chalked include “Smile!” and “Be kind to strangers.”

I don’t know what you think about graffiti, but I generally love it… and I love that someone has livened up one of the benches in Inverleith Park by scratching a stanza from this anti-war poem into it. The refrain is, “I am a hero, I am a hero.”

…and the last photo is not from Edinburgh, but it’s also wordy and made me smile. I was in Penrith recently, having a cup of tea in the lovely Wordsworth Bookshop and Coffee House. There was an exhibition of calligraphy going on, and this hand-lettered paper plate was one of the exhibits! This is an expression I associate with my gran and her many pearls of wisdom, and I was so impressed by the handwriting I had to get a photo.

What are YOU loving this week?

Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

More reasons to Write Like A Grrrl!: spaces on the May course

Monday, April 27th, 2015


(Photo credit)

You must have been living on the moon (with no wifi, obv) if you haven’t noticed that I am running a(n amazingly fun) all-female fiction course in Edinburgh at the moment! It’s called Write Like A Grrrl!, the Edinburgh version started in January, and I have already posted some responses to the course from the women who bravely signed up for the first round.

I’ve just finished the second Edinburgh Write Like A Grrrl! course and I don’t think it’s at all an exaggeration to say that it’s going from strength to strength. I have loved teaching both ‘blocks’ and meeting the wonderful women who signed up — and I am now booking for a third course, starting on 12th May.

Here’s what some of the March/April ladies had to say about Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh:

Talking things through and getting different perspectives is so helpful. Meeting other really cool writers has been amazing… if you are serious about getting serious about writing, it’ll kick you into shape. I’ve written more in six weeks than I had in the previous six years. I don’t want it to end.

The chance to speak informally with like-minded people and be reminded that the first draft won’t be perfect but it’s important to keep going… I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. Even if I never write another word (which won’t happen!), I wouldn’t regret taking the course.

It’s been a great kick-start for me and I’ve enjoyed forming our group and sharing the experience with others. Getting the basics has also been so helpful as I’ve not done creative writing since school, and found the idea of other creative writing courses intimidating. This felt relaxed and accessible. Thanks, Claire, it’s been ace!

Do it! It cures all self doubt. It stops you from being your own worst critic.

I would say that it stops you from procrastinating and makes you get on with it. It’s not a passive course – don’t expect to be spoon-fed. There is work! But it’s excellent. And I doubt there is anyone who actually manages to finish it and not feel that [writing] is something they can do, and even enjoy doing!

I always found it hard to even start anything. I’m now looking at things differently and finding inspiration in the oddest places. I would say that it’s a great way of getting started on the road of writing… if you’re stuck, this will pull you out.

You can’t procrastinate forever. Just do it – this course will make you do it, but you have to do the course!

Hearing that other people have similar blocks was so reassuring… Absolutely do this course! You’ll learn so much, not only about writing, but about yourself as a writer (and you are!) in a supportive, accessible format. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and everything to gain.

Sound good to you? The new May/June course is booking up fast, but there are a couple of spaces left. If you fancy grabbing one of them, just click here and scroll down for instructions!

Not in Edinburgh? Write Like A Grrrl! can also be found in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol — just check out the right hand sidebar at this page!

See you there, grrrls?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #142

Friday, March 27th, 2015

York March 15 (13)

Certainly the PBS still loves it some authoritative dude poetry. I helped out with a criticism workshop the other day and we were discussing a review of Harsent by Michael Hulse, which started out by listing Harsent’s achievements and using words like ‘magisterial’, ‘masterful’, ‘universal’. One of the other folks said she didn’t feel like there was room for the reader to make their own decisions… That’s kind of what I mean when I talk about the ‘aggrandising’ stuff; when the poet’s so big there’s no room for the reader. Why bother having readers when you’ve already decided how you are going to be read? It’s dull and usually comes bearing nostalgia for the time of Great Men. Which is fine if you’re in a position to be a Great Man.

Dave Coates, aka the most sensible poetry reviewer around, was interviewed by Hinterland and he spoke SO MUCH TRUTH. (If you read nothing else from this post, read this. Really.)

The new Scottish Book Trust public participation campaign is now open! The theme is “Journeys” — send SBT your journey-related story and it could end up in a book!

Check out these cheeky book “recommendations” from mischevious Waterstones staff!

I’ve always wanted to belong to the city of ideas, and it seems to me that membership of such a city is often incompatible with the other kinds of membership on offer along the way. Choices, or compromises, have to be made, and I find myself more and more inclined to say no to some invitations as a way of saying yes to to something closer to that ideal. I found it liberating to refuse both the Poet Laureate’s invitation to write a poem for the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012, and the Poetry Book Society’s attempt to include me in its Next Generation promotion of emerging poets this year. It’s not that I don’t want to be read, or that I object on principal to the business of actively seeking a readership. The question is one of context—do I feel happy in those groupings, in those lights? Do I want to be marketed as “young” and “new” and “sanctioned by”? Am I prepared to curtsey to the Queen, figuratively or otherwise? Do these things, these appointments, sit well with the actual poems I’m writing?

FRANCES LEVISTON IS UTTERLY GREAT.

I both do and do not agree with Ms Trollope here. Discuss.

Related: In case you’re feeling depressed about the fact that one of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards was just won by a 21 year old (a deserving one — well done Alex McCall!) here’s a list of twelve authors who weren’t published til later in life.

People who complain that creative writing courses produce relatively few writers don’t complain that history degrees produce few historians, that music schools produce relatively few world renowned soloists, that art departments don’t necessarily produce a lot of major artists. I spent 16 years in schools teaching art. Are people asking how many of those are ‘great’ artists now? I sincerely can’t see why writing is different from any other art.

So that guy wrote that article about Creative Writing MFAs, which I [largely] totally and utterly agreed with… but I agreed even more with George Szirtes’ response. (I’m contrary like that.)

I have seen so many lovely, touching tributes to Terry Pratchett online over the last few days… but among my favourites were xkcd’s cartoon and Chris Riddell’s wonderful drawing.

OMFG, Kindle Cover Disasters is… amazing.

Of writing itself, Rilke wrote: “Depict your sorrows and desires, your passing thoughts and beliefs in some kind of beauty—depict all that with heartfelt, quiet, humble sincerity; and use to express yourself the things that surround you, the images of your dreams and the objects of your memory. If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor or unimportant place.” All writers know this problem. A poor workman blames his tools, and we have only two: language and experience.

This essay on Rilke and ‘writing from the middle of things’ is pretty excellent.

Have you read Barthes’ Death of the Author? Here’s a pretty cool discussion on it.

Calisthenics for writers is pretty hilarious…

Your Chicken Leg Hut Performance Art will explore the idea that women can never win when it comes to their appearance; in a culture of pervasive misogyny, there will always be something “wrong” with how a woman looks. It will also ask its viewers to examine their own internal biases with regards to the objectification of women. Divorced of their context, are the chicken legs simply things? Or are they body parts deserving of love and respect? Remember that there are no right answers to these questions.
Plus you will be running around like the fucking boss of the forest in your hut on legs.

Feminist advice from Baba Yaga is pretty excellent.

You really ought to read these extracts from Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine, which just won a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Do you say “in a weird way”? Do you know why you say it?

It’s critical to understand that this isn’t censorship, but rather that these are amendments not permanently made to an already-published text. But the question is raised: What damage could be done to a writer’s intended vision in the name of this cleanliness?

Someone’s invented an app that will take all the swears out of any book. EYEROLL.

You might have seen this Forty Portraits in Forty Years post floating around… it is wonderful, touching, inspiring.

I LOVE Jessamyn (thanks to Lucy for introducing me to her) and I love this easy morning yoga routine she’s put together for Buzzfeed.

What is a writer’s freedom?
To me it is [hir] right to maintain and publish to the world a deep, intense, private view of the situation in which [zie] finds [hir] society. If [zie] is to work as well as [zie] can, [zie] must take, and be granted, freedom from the public conformity of political interpretation, morals and tastes.

[pronouns changed by me because they were all needlessly male]
^This is Nadine Gordimer on what freedom to write really means. Pretty good, pronouns aside.

I want to be ALL of these people when I grow up. …and related, here are some more excellent women.

Celebrities standing up to fat-shaming. As it should be!


The lovely Jane Alexander is launching her first novel… check it out!


Author Cesca Major created a writing webseries which is now done — this is video one and you can see all the rest here.


And the brilliant Sasha just introduced me to Australian feminist songstress Courtney Barnett and I. love. her.

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Reasons to Write Like A Grrrl!

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

@ the Indiana State Museum // 60s/70s feminist badge
(Photo credit)

Hey, remember that all-female fiction writing course I was banging on about before Christmas? Well, my first bunch of students have just graduated — look out world, thirteen newly-confident ladywriters are COMING FOR YOU!

That means that I am now taking bookings for the second round of Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh, which starts on the evening of Thursday 19th March at Sandeman House. In fact, I am almost fully booked already, with only one space remaining!

If you’re a female writer who’s struggling to stay on track with a novel, or if you fancy trying some short stories, or you need to beat writer’s block, or if you just want to get involved with a group of lovely, like-minded women, here are some reasons why you should click over here and book up that final place!

All of these comments are verbatim feedback from graduates from the first ever Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh course:

“Great content and brilliant to get the chance to meet other aspiring writers. Claire, the tutor delivering the Edinburgh course is fantastic, very knowledgeable, a great teacher: includes and makes everyone feel involved and valuable.”

“It’s well-structured, practical, the materials are excellent and it’s a supportive environment in which to develop your writing. Well worth the money.”

“Needs to be longer please, 12 weeks would be wonderful!”

“Do it! It helps you to open up and understand that your writing worries are shared by other people.”

“Speaking to everyone on the course, it’s great to be in a group you can talk to about aspects of your writing. I wish the course was longer. I have already recommended it to several friends. The handouts each week are a fantastic reference. The course has a nice pace.”

“It was really the best decision in terms of writing but also meeting people with similar interests. Turned up quiet and unsure about talking about writing, now have like a little circle for advice and encouragement, and look forward to seeing where everyone goes from here!”

“Great - fun, friendly, informative. Whatever issue or goal you have in writing, this will definitely help. Twelve hours of classes has gotten my writing further than years of thinking I was trying.”

That all-important sign-up link again: Write Like A Grrrl! Edinburgh.
Hope to see you there!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Five lost Edinburgh bookstores that I wish still existed.

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Dangerous Ladders
(Photo credit)

OK, so I was reading this post on Buzzfeed about Edinburgh’s great array of charming bookstores (and newsflash: this aint even all of them!), and although the post is really lovely, it got me thinking wistfully of the Edinburgh bookstores of yesteryear that are no more. I thought that they merited a photoblog of their own and so, here are five. If you have more to add, please do let me know!

the Haynes Nano Stage 01
(Photo credit)

Jim Haynes’ Paperback Bookshop
Did you know that Edinburgh had its own (small) Beat movement? It’s a true fact: and it’s largely down to Jim Haynes and his iconic Paperback Bookshop. The shop was opened in 1959 in Bristo Square, next to the University, and it famously had a rhino head mounted on the wall outside (here’s a gorgeous photo of a wee girl posing next to it!). Haynes claims to this day that his was the UK’s first ever paperback-only bookshop. It was also a mecca for Beat enthusiasts… and trouble. In 1960, a woman famously staged a protest outside the shop by burning one of its copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Sadly, the University decided to redevelop Bristo Square in 1966, and rather shortsightedly kicked the Paperback Bookshop out of its premises. They’ve since realised the error of their ways and created a memorial — which includes the book sculpture pictured above, and a brand new rhino head — to this lost cultural site.

Student reading in the Hub, Main Library.
(Photo credit)

Pickerings Books
Sad fact: I cannot find a single photograph of Pickerings Books online, and yet it was a gorgeous bookstore that sat right on the corner of Buccleuch Place, only yards from where the aforementioned Paperback Bookshop once stood. Were it still in existence, it would have been just about visible behind the totes cool dude in the photo above. Pickerings was a wee place, but it was full of gems. As an English Literature undergraduate/not-yet-fully-formed-human, I used to spend hours in there digging through the badly-organised shelves and random piles of second hand books. One day, I found what I thought was a scruffy old book of Edwin Morgan poems for two quid. It turned out to be a first edition of The Second Life that was signed in the front by Angus Calder. ONLY IN PICKERINGS could such treasure be unearthed.

The new town paperback
(Photo credit)

The New Town Paperback
I’ll admit: this place always seemed a little creepy… but in a good way, if that makes sense? I don’t think I ever met anyone else in it, I was always the lone browser, and I never saw anyone else go in or out. The books in the window display all had really sun-faded covers, like they’d been there decades. And yet, I took huge comfort from seeing this place was still there, in spite of everything, whenever I passed on the bus. It’s now a trendy wine shop, where I will never shop, simply because they covered up that amazingly retro shopfront. Sorry not sorry! (PS: here’s a photo of me, posing horribly, outside the New Town Paperback when it was still a going concern…)

Pulp Fiction
(Photo credit)

Pulp Fiction
Tollcross is my favourite area of Edinburgh, and I loved the couple of years that I spent living in a fifth-floor walk up right on Tollcross Junction (noisy as it was). Pulp Fiction was my local bookstore then, as it was only yards from my front door. It was a sci fi/fantasy specialist store and seemed to have literally every sci fi title in the world, no matter how obscure… plus seriously dedicated and knowledgable staff. It was also a really cool literary events venue. I still have no idea why it closed down and my heart is sad whenever I pass by the shopfront it once occupied. RIP, Pulp Fiction!

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg!
(Photo credit)

Old Hat Books at the Old Forest
I know that the Forest Cafe still lives, and I am super pleased that it moved to its New Forest location in Tollcross (see above). However, I miss EVERYTHING about the Old Forest on Bristo Place. It was just the perfect space for a burgeoning DIY arts co-operative, with little nooks and crannies containing everything from a hairdressers to a darkroom, from the amazing Free Shop to a recording studio. And there was also Old Hat Books! A kind of independent bookstore/library/book club mash-up. Like everything about Forest, there was and is really nothing else like Old Hat Books in Edinburgh, if not the world. Hopefully it will eventually make a comeback at New Forest, and maybe become New Hat Books…?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

My Top 10 Vegan Restaurants of 2014: a road trip in meals!

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

BREAKFAST

Vegan rissole breakfast at Goji, York

Goji, Goodramgate, York

Fully vegan? Nope, this is a veggie place with vegan options. But you can tell that they really care about veganism and vegans aren’t just an afterthought.
Specialism? They don’t have one — literally everything is brilliant. However, I’m going to go ahead and give them extra extra brownie points for having creative vegan breakfasts. A vegan breakfast (let alone a good vegan breakfast) is a rare thing.
Prices? Very reasonable.
Do I need to book? If you’re in York for only a short time and want to make sure you get to eat here, then yes. I have never booked but it’s always been super busy when I’ve been, and I’ve always been very lucky to arrive just as a table has come free.
Easy to find? Yes, it’s near the back of the Minster.
Accessible? Not really. The ground floor is up a step and then inside, the first floor dining area and loos are only accessed via a tiny, winding staircase. That’s York and it’s tall, narrow, listed buildings for you.
Best bit? It’s all great: lovely friendly staff (of course, it’s Yorkshire!), great meals at any time of day, great cake, nice space… it’s a magical place.
They could improve: this is a note for management. Hire more staff. Your waitstaff are all lovely but they always seem super frazzled! One more body could make all the difference!

LUNCH

glasgowaug (10) Special burger mushroom and tarragon The 78

The 78, Kelvinhaugh Street, Glasgow

Fully vegan? Yep!
Specialism? Burgers. This is very much a burger place. But they’re good burgers, and the specials change daily. That beast up there ^ is a mushroom and tarragon burger and OMG it was good.
Prices? Reasonable.
Do I need to book? I doubt it — they have loads of seats. Maybe on a weekend night for dinner as I can imagine it would get busy then.
Easy to find? Honestly? No. Lovely Boyfriend and I wandered around a bit in the rain before eventually getting there… and it’s a fairly long way from either a station or a Subway. There are buses along Argyll Street, though.
Accessible? Fully! Hooray!
Best bit? It’s a cool space: light and bright with lots of windows, but also somehow cozy. Great Glaswegian hospitality… oh, and they have vegan desserts, too, like chocolate brownie and sticky toffee pudding!
They could improve: nowt! Well done, The 78!

glasgowaug (3) Stereo flatbread Stereo

Stereo, Renfield Lane, Glasgow

Fully vegan? Yep!
Specialism? Piles and piles and piles of food. Also their chips are just a little big magical.
Prices? Reasonable.
Do I need to book? Possibly. I tend to go early evening and usually manage to get a seat, but it starts filling up rapidly after 6pm.
Easy to find? Ish. It’s right in the middle of Glasgow, literally a two-minute walk from Central Station. However, it’s also in an alleyway, and if you approach from a certain angle it looks perpetually closed. Give the doors a shove, though… they’re open!
Accessible? Nope, the alleyway is kinda dark and cobbled and narrow, and the restaurant itself is up a ton of steps. They do have unisex bathrooms though, which I appreciate!
Best bit? Eating in this place makes you feel super cool and with it, as you can throw a stone in any direction in this place and hit an art student, poet, or beardy hipster man in a lumberjack shirt. Personally, I like this. It’s good people watching. Plus, Stereo also has a venue downstairs which hosts painfully hip nights — the last thing I went to there was a circus-themed cabaret with loads of nudity (for some reason, they booked me to read poems there. I’ll admit, I was scared).
They could improve: the menu, maybe… it’s a tad limited. I go only occasionally. I’d appreciate some new options!

SUNDAY LUNCH

Vegan Sunday roast at Norman's Coach & Horses, Soho, London

Vegan tofush & chips at Norman's Coach & Horses, Soho, London

Norman’s Coach & Horses, off Greek Street, Soho, London

Fully vegan? Nope, this place is veggie and vegan. But like Goji above, veganism is very much part of the ethos and there are loads of vegan options.
Specialism? Their “tofush” and chips (pictured in the second photo above). It’s a tofu fish supper, and really very good.
Prices? Bordering on cheap, for London!
Do I need to book? We went on a Sunday at 1pm (classic Sunday lunch time), and there were free tables, so probably not.
Easy to find? Yep, it’s in the middle of Soho and near to various tube stations. We walked there from the South Bank and found it fine.
Accessible? Yes, although the bathrooms are not.
Best bit? I had the vegan Sunday roast, which is what that stuffed aubergine thing is.
They could improve: the staff. Sorry! I hate slagging people who work difficult jobs. But… smile and be nice, please! I know it’s London, but come on. You can do it.

Vegan Sunday roast at Goji, York

Goji (again), see above.

I already praised these guys to the sky at breakfast, I know… but I just had to show you their vegan lentil loaf Sunday roast. It was perfect, folks. Get thee to York, already!

TAPAS & SHARING

Barcelona Autumn 2014 (91)

Veggie Garden, Carrer des Angels, Barcelona

Fully vegan? Yes!
Specialism? Juices. They have literally hundreds of amazing juice, smoothie and shake options on the menu. Worth going there for this alone.
Prices? Cheap.
Do I need to book? Maybe. It does get busy around typical lunch/local dinner hours. I’ve now been three times — booked the first time and then chanced it the last two. If you’re eating at UK dinner time (e.g. before 8pm) though, you’re likely to be OK.
Easy to find? Yes. It’s near Liceu Metro, too, which is one of the major stations.
Accessible? Not really. Most of the seats are upstairs, but in good weather you can eat on the terrace outside. The bathrooms are very cramped.
Best bit? It’s one of those places where you can order anything and know that it’s going to be amazing. Even the guacamole is a cut above the usual. The staff are lovely, too, and are happy to put up with terrible Spanglish from the likes of me. Oh, and the walls are covered in amazing, brightly coloured murals!
They could improve: the loos are a bit grim. Nothing utterly gross, but you know, loo roll on the floor, no hand towels, stuff like that. Sorry, Veggie Garden!

El Piano, York

Vegan sharing platter at El Piano, York

El Piano, Grape Lane, York

Fully vegan? Yes, AND gluten free, too!
Specialism? Being FOOD SAINTS. Not only is everything vegan, cruelty free and gluten free, they also really value keeping their meals locally-sourced. Every dish has a circle next to it with a number inside, telling you what percentage of that meal was sourced within ten miles of the restaurant. Most of the dishes are 70% local or more.
Prices? Cheap. The portions are huge. You get so much bang for your buck here.
Do I need to book? YES. A thousand times yes. York folks are not stupid: they know this is the best place to eat in the entire county! It’s always been packed whenever I’ve been and I have always needed to book.
Easy to find? Yep, it’s a stone’s throw from the Minster.
Accessible? The ground floor is, yes. The loos, maybe not.
Best bit? Definitely the two sharing platters (one is pictured above). Their mains are also great… but the sharing platters give you chance to taste the whole range of amazing food they make.
They could improve: the desserts. I was legit shocked that a place that does such utterly amazing savoury food could turn out such average desserts! Perhaps my expectations were too high. But they do get brownie points for having desserts at all.

DINNER

Edventures (2)

Bonsai, Broughton St & Richmond St, Edinburgh

Fully vegan? Nope. This is actually your regular restaurant with plenty of meat and fish on the menu… they just have a lot of veggie things that also, happily, happen to be vegan!
Specialism? Sushi.
Prices? Reasonable.
Do I need to book? Only if you’re dining with a party of more than four, I’d say.
Easy to find? Yep.
Accessible? The Broughton Street one probably is, yes. I’ll hold up my hands and say I have never been to the Richmond Street one!
Best bit? The food is really lovely… it’s just the right amount of experimental, with cool specials like butternut squash maki, or oyster mushroom tempura. The service is also very fast and efficient, and the waitstaff are all lovely.
They could improve: more vegan specials on the specials board, more often! Most times I go all the specials are fish-adjacent.

Part of the Tempura Course at Itadaki Zen vegan Japanese restaurant, King's Cross, London

Part of the Itadaki Course at Itadaki Zen vegan Japanese restaurant, King's Cross, London

Itadaki Zen, King’s Cross Road, London
(fun fact: they also have a seasonal outpost in, of all places, Oban!)

Fully vegan? Yes. In fact, this is the first all-vegan Japanese restaurant in the whole of Europe!
Specialism? Flavour-balancing. Seriously, the chefs here are magicians. Everything you eat tastes clean, crisp, never too salty or spicy or plain. The menu goes into detail about how they try to waste nothing and ask that diners do the same — they discourage the addition of soy sauce or wasabi to their sushi, because it doesn’t need it. And it really doesn’t! Every mouthful is perfect.
Prices? Very reasonable, especially for London, especially for food so good.
Do I need to book? Yes, always. The place is always full to the top, sometimes with a queue out the door.
Easy to find? Yes. Just remember it’s on King’s Cross Road, not Gray’s Inn Road. The two roads look very alike, as Lovely Boyfriend and I discover every time we go here!
Accessible? No, and it’s very small, too! Prepare to get a bit cozy with your fellow diners!
Best bit? The four-course set meals (we tried the Itadaki course and the Tempura course). You get an amazing starter, then sushi, then a bento box-ed main, then dessert, all for a very reasonable price, and it’s literally the perfect size for a meal. You leave feeling the most pleasant kind of full!
They could improve: the loos. Nothing terrible, but a bit scruffy.

COFFEE & CAKE

Once again, The Chocolate Tree wins.  #whatveganseat

The Chocolate Tree, Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh

Fully vegan? No, but lots and lots of tasty vegan options. They value their vegan customers and some of the staff are vegan!
Specialism? They’re probably the only legitimate chocolatier (a company that makes their 100% of their chocolate themselves, from the bean) in the UK. Most companies who call themselves ‘chocolatiers’ are actually ‘confiseurs.’ In other words: these guys are serious chocolate specialists.
Prices? Very reasonable.
Do I need to book? Yes. The cafe recently cleared out some tables to make space for merch instead, so there are only about ten seats in the whole place. Booking is basically essential. However, if you can’t get a table you can always take your chocolate goodies to a bench on the nearby Bruntsfield Links — a favourite pasttime of mine!
Easy to find? Yes. It’s on tons of bus routes or you can take a nice stroll through the Meadows and then the Links to get there.
Accessible? Yes.
Best bit? Their hot chocolate drinks. That chocolate cake above is definitely lush, but it’s also impossible to finish a whole piece in one sitting and then walk away! The hot chocolates, however, come in lots of different flavours and levels of intensity and all of them can be made with soy milk. Yay! Oh, also, on a hot day not much beats their sorbet counter! Vegan chocolate sorbet, be mine.
They could improve: I’ll admit, I liked it better when there were more tables. Sigh.

RAW at La Suite West, Kensington, London

Vegan afternoon tea at La Suite West, Kensington, London

Vegan afternoon tea at La Suite West, Kensington, London

RAW at La Suite West, Inverness Terrace, Kensington, London

Fully vegan? No, veggie — but with a big emphasis on vegan, dairy free and raw.
Specialism? Their all-vegan-all-the-time afternoon tea. I never dared to dream of such a thing existing!
Prices? OK, you knew this one was going to be pricey, right? Afternoon tea for two will set you back almost £50. But actually, as afternoon teas go, that isn’t bad — it compares favourably to the famous Balmoral one. And afternoon tea is a big meal… we left barely able to walk and we didn’t even finish everything!
Do I need to book? Nope. We did, but then the place was pretty quiet.
Easy to find? Yes — it’s a stone’s throw from Kensington Gardens and literally thirty seconds’ walk from the Bayswater tube.
Accessible? Fully!
Best bit? The coconut cream that came with the scones. I know that’s mega-specific, but it was that good.
They could improve: by turning the lights up a little! The mood lighting — not only in the restaurant, but also in the corridors when you’re trying to find the loo — is er, a little too moody! I like to be able to see the cake I am eating!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

My Top 10 Independent Bookstores of 2014: a northward bookish road trip!

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

PhD grad weekend adventures (12)

Withnail Books, Penrith

Range of books? Excellent for such a small place.
Specialism? Lake District related, and all things Withnail & I.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Not really. A bit off the beaten track and hidden away in an antiques/restoration salvage yard! You’d be better off looking for Booths supermarket… it’s across the road from there!
Accessible? Accessible-ish… it’s ground level but in the middle of a salvage yard so there may be obstacles.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? There’s a vintage clothing store upstairs, and this aforementioned antiques salvage yard right outside which is also brilliant for a poke about in!

Beckside Books, Penrith

Beckside Books, Penrith

Range of books? Again, excellent for such a wee place.
Specialism? Lake District.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes, it’s in the centre of Penrith and well signposted.
Accessible? Partly — it’s on two floors with stairs to the first floor.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? It’s a place to find hidden gems… and it’s a very, very cute building.

Bookcase Books in Carlisle.  Place of dreams.

Bookcase, Carlisle

Range of books? Massive. This place is absolutely huge. You want it? They have it.
Specialism? Being unapologetically huge and maze-like.
Prices? Cheap (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes, although not signposted it’s two minutes from Carlisle’s market square and any local could direct you there.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No, but there’s a tea and coffee machine and lots of posters encouraging you to make use of it!
Best bit? I have been four times and still not seen it all. It’s that big.

Word Power Books

Word Power Books, Edinburgh

Range of books? Great. If I can’t find a book anywhere else, I can usually find it here.
Specialism? Politics, and Scottish writers.
Prices? Almost all the books are new, so RRP or above.
Easy to find? Yes.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Marshall, the friendly Rottweiler-cross who follows you around as you browse and appreciates a good scratch behind the ears!

Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh

Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh

Range of books? Modest, but carefully hand-picked. (I do sometimes find them hard to browse, though… there’s a funny categorising/display system going on!)
Specialism? Scottish writers.
Prices? All the books are new, so RRP.
Easy to find? Yes. Well signposted from Middle Meadow Walk!
Accessible? Fully! Go LGB!
Cafe? Yes.
Best bit? Vegan flapjack. Sorry not sorry!

Glasgow Aug 14

Alba Musick, Glasgow

Range of books? Surprisingly wide for a bookshop that calls itself a music shop!
Specialism? Music.
Prices? About right (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Nope. It’s in a yard behind some flats. Although if you know where the similarly-weirdly-placed Glasgow legend Tchai Ovna is, start there… it’s one yard over.
Accessible? Yes… although the yard outside is cobbled and sometimes cars park across the doorway.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Surprisingly excellent poetry section!

Glasgow Aug 14

Voltaire & Rousseau, Glasgow

Range of books? Very wide… but this bookstore is famous for having absolutely no logical cataloguing system whatsoever. If you’re looking for something specific, be prepared to rummage. For a long, long time.
Specialism? Intimidating, haphazard piles of books!
Prices? Cheap (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? See above. This one’s in the same yard as Tchai Ovna. Get off the Subway at Kelvinbridge and then ask someone!
Accessible? Theoretically, yes. Realistically, no.
Cafe? No, but the aforementioned Tchai Ovna is a couple of doors down.
Best bit? Rummaging.

Inverness 2014 (8)

Leakey’s, Inverness

Range of books? Huge! Although surprisingly little fiction and poetry in comparison to other stuff.
Specialism? Scottish travel/antiquarian.
Prices? A bit on the dear side (all the books are second hand).
Easy to find? Yes.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? Yes.
Best bit? Just hanging out in this place is really cool. It’s a converted church and every surface is covered with books. There’s also a woodburning stove!

Gairloch 2014 (2)

Hillbillies Bookstore and Trading Post, Gairloch

Range of books? Amazingly great, considering this place is down a 60-mile-long, single-track cul-de-sac in the Highlands.
Specialism? Politics / social science, book-related geeky gifts, and really, really good coffee.
Prices? All the books are new, so RRP.
Easy to find? Once you’re in Gairloch, yes. But first you must gird your loins and drive to Gairloch!
Accessible? Yes — although it’s split-level with stairs, both levels are accessible via their own outside doors.
Cafe? Oh hell yes.
Best bit? The place is papered with political slogan posters, and the cafe’s coffee is great. This place is basically like a little piece of North Beach, San Francisco… in Gairloch.

Thurso 2014

Tall Tales, Thurso

Range of books? Modest. It’s a wee place!
Specialism? None… but lots of Scottish titles.
Prices? Super cheap.
Easy to find? Yes, it’s in the middle of Thurso and Thurso is, well, pretty tiny.
Accessible? No.
Cafe? No.
Best bit? Tall Tales is the best thing about Thurso (although Thurso also has a surprisingly cosmopolitan health food store). Hooray!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Procrastination Station #138

Friday, December 5th, 2014

1384605

IMPORTANT THINGS OF THE WEEK:

One: I am running an all-female fiction writing course and if you’re a self-identifying woman, I want you to come along! You can get all the details here, and sign up here.

Two: Tomorrow is UK Small Business Saturday. Please support small businesses by giving them some of your Christmas shopping custom! Related: I have a small business. I am also having a pre-Christmas sale right now!

Three: I am reposting this Danez Smith poem, because it is important. Really important.

OK, here’s the rest…

If the rhythm of your prose is broken, read poetry.

…and nine other very smart pieces of advice from Hilary Mantel.

Hey! The great Ryan Van Winkle is teaching an online poetry course and it looks great!

Bad reasons to start writing poetry. (Wait, there are good reasons?)

Sometimes I’ll literally turn my face away from the keyboard as I type, trying to access my unconscious a little more. Like if I don’t look, I can fool it into coming out of its cave.

Kim Addonizio is still the best.

Scottish Book Trust has called for every child in Scotland to have a library card. Proud to be a SBT staff member!

Looking for somewhere to submit your short fiction? Look no further.

Paddington stows away and deliberately avoids the immigration authorities on arrival. He is in formal legal terms an illegal entrant and as such commits a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971. It is an offence punishable by up to six months in prison. If or when detected by the authorities it is more likely he would simply be removed back to Peru than that he would be prosecuted, though.

Paddington Bear: illegal entrant. Read this, it is important.

Did you write a love letter to a library for Book Week Scotland? You still can!

This is a lovely tribute to the great writer and activist Leslie Feinberg… and here is another one.

Yes, more people will buy the new Coldplay album than will read Kathleen Jamie’s next collection. Yes, poetry will remain a passion for a relatively small portion of the population. I also know that poetry is the great survivor, the Keith Richards of the arts. It was there at the dawn of civilisation – it has to be a toss-up between poetry, music or painting for what was the first art form early man took up – and it will be there at the end. When there are only a few humans left sitting around a campfire, they will amuse themselves with rhymes and word games, for poetry only needs a voice, not even a pen and piece of paper. I find this apocalyptic vision weirdly comforting.

Here’s Be The First To Like This editor Colin Waters saying very smart things.

Really weird ways to promote your book.

Bim Adewunmi’s Crush Of The Week is Quvenzhane Wallis, because she is basically the best human.

When black people are protesting in Ferguson and across America, they’re not protesting against white people. Maybe this seems obvious, but it’s worth stating. In fact, in the case of Ferguson, the protests weren’t (primarily) about one white cop. Black communities are ultimately protesting systems of injustice and inequality that structurally help white people while systematically harming black people. Just because you’re white and therefore generally benefit from those systems doesn’t mean you inherently support those systems — or need to defend them.

Because some people need to have the obvious stated at them in order to understand Ferguson.

The body acceptance community is still too focussed on “pretty.” < -- this is really great.

Movie posters made better by Mark Kermode quotes is also rather excellent.

In case you scrolled past the last video, here’s another poem by Danez Smith. F*cking watch it.

Sorry not sorry: I love Larkin. Check this out.

Here - Philip Larkin (HD) from Classlane Media on Vimeo.

This is from that Paddington article. Watch, then share. Care about this, I beg you.

29 November 2014: Detainees Protest at Campsfield House IRC from Standoff Films on Vimeo.

& finally, here’s Key & Peele ripping it out of that gross “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” song!

Have a great weekend!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

Attention women writers! Brand new writing opportunity in Edinburgh!

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Writing ♥
(Photo credit)

Hello, friends!

I am very excited to announce that from January 2015, I will be delivering the innovative all-female fiction writing class Write Like A Grrrl.

Write Like A Grrrl is already established in London, and a Manchester class is starting up shortly. But I thought it would be very sad if all the brilliant female writers north of the border were unable to take part, so I pitched myself to the lovely people at For Books’ Sake as a potential Scotland-based tutor. After some very excitable chats — and some training in the ins and outs of the course, natch — they signed me up! Now all I need is for YOU to come and join me!

Write Like A Grrrl is open to any self-identifying woman who writes fiction, or would like to write fiction. As well as helping you make your writing as brilliant as it can be — focussing on the essential stuff like characterisation and dialogue — the course also empowers women writers to beat procrastination and create that precious thing, productive writing time!

The Edinburgh course begins on 24th January and runs for six weeks — so if you’re planning to make “do more writing” one of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, then Write Like A Grrrl might just be perfect for you!

The venue is the cozy back room at Boda, which — for those of you have never been there before — is full of comfy couches, and a perfect space for chatting about writing and sharing ideas. The course is six weeks long and runs for six consecutive Saturdays, from 24th January 2015, between 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

The Write Like A Grrrl: Edinburgh website has all the info you need, and you can book your place using the drop-down menu, too!

Please do join me! I’d love to see you there!

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!

You should come to this: the Shore Poets ‘Be The First To Like This’ Quiet Slam for Book Week Scotland

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Cat Dean
(Cat Dean performing at the this collection all-female Quiet Slam in 2011)

Yep, OK… as event titles go that one’s a bit of a mouthful! BUT I am very proud to be part of the Shore Poets committee, which is organising and hosting its first ever Quiet Slam in association with brand new, very exciting Scottish poetry anthology Be The First To Like This (which I am also included in)! It’s all part of Book Week Scotland 2014, an annual festival of reading created by Scottish Book Trust… where, er, I work. Basically, I am three-times-duty-bound to promote this event… which incidentally, is going to be great.

Here’s all the info you need, from the Shore Poets website:

What’s the format?
Each of our ten poets will perform twice. We’ll have a first round, in which each poet will read for a skinny two minutes, and be scored by our judges. After a break there’ll be a second round, and each poet will read again – this time for 2.5 minutes. This means each poet gets two chances to wow our judging panel! The top three highest scoring poets from rounds one and two will go into a final, where they’ll get chance to read for three whole minutes.
Interspersed among all this we’ll have our usual lovely music, this month from Various Moons. We’ll also have our raffle, so you’ll still get chance to win the infamous lemon cake!

What’s a quiet slam?
A quiet slam is a slam where loudness is not necessarily a virtue. Participants won’t be marked down for speaking softly, reading from paper, or being nervous (this seems obvious really, because we’re nice people and we don’t have hearts of stone). We also want to encourage slam virgins to take part – have you been intrigued by the whole slam thing but put off by the competitiveness and shouting? This is a good place to cut your slam teeth. Finally, judges will score participants on the quality of their poem and the quality of their performance alone. There will be no score for audience reaction – because it’s not fair for someone to walk off with the top prize just because they brought a lot of friends!

Prizes!
The highest scoring poet of the night will win a £30 book token and automatically go forward to compete in the Scottish Poetry Slam Championship finals.
The runner up will win a £20 book token and third prize is a £10 book token.
All performers will receive a small prize for taking part, too!

Can I take part…?
You can! There are four open spots up for grabs and performers will be selected via a random draw on the night. Just email publicity@shorepoets.org.uk to have your name put in the hat!

…even if I’m not in Be The First To Like This?
Yep! We’re promoting BTFTLT by offering six of our slam slots to poets who appear in that book. We’ll also be selling copies of the book on the night. This is because we feel the anthology is a really lovely recognition of Scotland’s many talented new and upcoming poets, and we want to help promote it. But the BTFTLT poets will also be drawn from a hat to find out who competes, and they’ll compete on the same footing as everyone else!

Judges
We’re happy to announce that our Head Judge will be our very own Jane McKie – you may remember her mad slam-judging skills from last Book Week Scotland, and the Dead Poets Slam at the Bongo Club! Helping Jane out with her very tricky task will be Dr Alan Gillis, Honorary Shore Poet and Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh, and Jennifer Williams, Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library.
The event will be hosted by Shore Poet and BTFTLT contributor Claire Askew.

Don’t worry – we’re not changing too much. Our venue is still the lovely Henderson’s at St John’s, and you’ll still be able to buy tickets for our famous raffle (books and other goodies added to the mix this month, as well as the lemon cake)! We hope you’ll come along and support us as we venture into new, uncharted territory!

Here are the most important details:

SHORE POETS QUIET SLAM: NOVEMBER 2014
Sunday 30th November 2014, 7.45 pm to 10.00pm (doors open 7.15pm)
Henderson’s at St John’s, St John’s Church, corner of Lothian Road and Princes Street, Edinburgh
Admission: £5 (concessions £3)

Oh yes, did I forget to mention that I am also hosting the event? Which means I’ll be extra super sad if you don’t come along. See you there…?

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Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!