Posts Tagged ‘scotland’

Things I Love Thursday #96: The Secret Herb Garden

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

My dear friend Martyna just moved back to Edinburgh, and it seems she has an uncanny ability to make me feel like the 18 year old undergrad I was when the two of us first met and started having adventures! Martyna has a great ability for sniffing out cool new places to discover, even in good old Edinburgh, where I was convinced I knew about all the cool stuff! Turns out, I’m wrong — I had no idea about The Secret Herb Garden, which is only short bus ride out of the city and a really, really great place to visit!

They have:

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

A huge, tangled, fragrant greenhouse where you’re free to wander, smell flowers, follow twisty paths and discover hidden clearings.

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

A coffee shop full of tasty treats (including all-gluten-free cakes and dairy free options… and we’re told vegan options are coming soon!), where you’re encouraged to take your drinks and snacks and wander off to find a pleasant place to sit!

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

A lovely shop where you can buy restored vintage furniture; ethical soaps, candles and smellies; useful gardening paraphernalia; pottery and glassware, and some clothing and homeware. All lovely unique and largely local stuff!

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Bees! Inside the stripy bee observatory, you can get a close up look at the transparent bee-hive and see the bees going about their business. Very cool.

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Chickens! Who very much like having their photo taken…

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

Pigs! Who like a friendly chat… although they may only have chatted with us because we expressly told them we were vegan.

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

All in all, a really rather excellent day out… and all for the cost of a bus ticket! We got to the herb garden by hopping on a number 15 bus at Tollcross. The 15 stops at Old Pentland Road, and you need to walk about ten minutes up that road to get there. The walk is fairly easy, with pavement (albeit narrow) all the way, and Martyna and I were able to stop and pick brambles and elderberries on the way!

Highly, highly, highly recommended!

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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!

Need a writer? Book a writer! (& pick me!)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

StAnza 2011 Preview
Photo by Chris Scott.

Have you ever fancied:

- organising a poetry reading?
- organising a reading of fiction?
- inviting a writer to come and speak at your community group?
- getting your youth group involved with creative writing?
- organising a talk about writing?
- having an author come and visit your book club?
- finding a really good judge for your slam?
- hiring a professional writer for just about anything at all?

Scottish Book Trust can help!
Right now, SBT is open for applications to its Live Literature Fund. This amazing, one-of-a-kind fund enables individuals and organisations to source a poet, author, storyteller or illustrator to take part in an event or events, and helps to pay them a proper fee. The Live Literature Fund has its own database of vetted writers and artists, each of them bringing a different skillset to the fore.

Applications for the latest round of Live Literature Funding close on 30th September, so if you fancy doing any of the above, get in there quick!

…and, if you’re stuck for a writer to invite, you could always pick me!

To date, I have:

- visited high schools and talked to students about all aspects of poetry, reading and writing
- worked with vulnerable adults (in settings like women’s support groups, homeless and vulnerably housed groups, and groups for intravenous drug-users), using poetry as a way to voice, share or move on from traumatic stories or experiences
- worked extensively with adult literacy groups to engage those who struggle with reading
- worked extensively with ‘reluctant readers,’ especially young men
- worked with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to help them tell stories of home and homecoming
- judged many a poetry competition, and many a slam
- competed in many a slam, and won a few!
- taken part in panel discussions on all manner of things
- given talks on all sorts of stuff, from my PhD research into contemporary women’s poetry, to the strategies we need to adopt to get vulnerable individuals more involved in Scottish culture and the arts
- given hundreds of poetry readings to audiences ranging from four people in a field to an Edinburgh International Book Festival crowd!

I’m always up for a challenge, too, so if what you fancy doing doesn’t sound like anything you see listed there, that doesn’t mean I won’t be up for trying it. So if you successfully secure LLF funding (or even if you don’t, and find the funds from elsewhere!), feel free to drop me a line via claire [at] onenightstanzas.com, or you can follow my antics on Twitter. You can also read my profile on the Live Literature Database itself.

Good luck!

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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!

30 before 30: the first six months! 6. Get out more

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

You may remember that #6 on my 30-before-30 epic ‘to do’ list was Get Out More. I said: “I need to start actually going to all the cool places in the UK that I love — or am curious about — instead of just daydreaming about going…”

Well, this one is by no means “done,” as I hope to have lots more adventures before 10th March 2016, but in order to get this goal properly kick-started, Lovely Boyfriend and I decided to do a truly epic tour of Scotland. Here’s where we “got out” to!

Faskally Tay Forest 2014 (3)

Faskally Tay Forest 2014 (5)

Faskally Tay Forest 2014 (6)

Faskally Tay Forest 2014 (7)

We started ^ here, at the Tay Forest Park, which is quite huge, and amazing. This part of it is at Faskally, and has lots of sedate walks or demanding hikes, depending on what you fancy. LB and did a bit of both… including some straying from the path and ending up crashing through trees, which was quite fun. We also met ducklings!

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (2)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (21)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (8)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (12)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (11)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (16)

Highland Wildlife Park 2014 (17)

On the way from Faskally to Inverness, our next stop, we took a break at the Highland Wildlife Park. I’ll be honest, I was not looking forward to this place — I hate zoos and find them really, really depressing. But LB convinced me that this was different. I started out hating it, but after a while I realised that the vast majority of the critters actually had a pretty charmed life… even the polar bears, who I didn’t photograph but who we saw playing and play-fighting and eating tons of steak, which I am guessing they wouldn’t do if they hated living there. The worst thing about it was the terrible array of human behaviour we saw. That sign? Totally ignored by most. LB had to drag me away from the wolves as I was about to throw someone’s child to them!

Inverness 2014 (3)

Inverness 2014 (1)

Inverness 2014 (6)

I didn’t take many photos of Inverness, but I really liked it. I spent rather a lot of time in the many excellent charity shops there! It’s a weird place — they have poems in their pavements and tractors in their carparks, and it’s a funny mix of cosmopolitan (loads of tourists) and parochial. Inverness also has a massive second hand bookstore inside a converted church, but that was so good that it’s getting its own post… watch this space!

Caithness 2014 (8)

Caithness 2014 (4)

Caithness 2014 (1)

Caithness 2014 (12)

From Inverness, we drove for what seemed like ages to get to our little cabin in Caithness — seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but between Wick and Castletown if you want some idea. I loved Caithness very much — amazing bleak landscapes, huge skies and barely any tourists at all. Our little cabin was basic but cozy and had everything… including a little secluded ‘garden’ at the back where I got my first taste for outdoor yoga. The third photo there is the view from the cabin, and we saw three amazing sunsets while we were there… which LB greatly enjoyed, as you can see!

Duncansby 2014 (3)

Duncansby 2014 (4)

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Duncansby 2014 (9)

Caithness is all about the cool geological stuff. This is Duncansby, which is a famous site for nesting birds. Although you can’t see in the photos, that scar is an inlet that was packed with terns, shags, puffins and several types of gull, all feeding their chicks and making a truly amazing noise! The pointy witch-hat-like things are the Stacks of Duncansby, which are apparently super famous, and very spectacular IRL.

Dunnet Beach 2014 (3)

Dunnet Beach 2014 (2)

Dunnet Beach 2014 (4)

Caithness is also all about amazingly clean sandy beaches — and this one, which runs between Castletown and Dunnet, was really near to our cabin. We had it pretty much to ourselves and I got some very successful beach-combing done, finding huge shells, a whole sea urchin shell, and an amazingly delicate gull’s skull… morbid but cool!

Dunnet Head 2014 (3)

Dunnet Head 2014 (4)

Dunnet Head 2014 (5)

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Dunnet Head 2014 (13)

Dunnet Head 2014 (15)

On one of our Caithness days, we hiked along and around Dunnet Head, which is the northernmost point on the UK mainland. It was bleak, but incredible — as well as cool views there are also lots of creepy ruins there, and a Stevenson lighthouse (I met a few of the Stevenson lighthouses on this trip… and photographed not a one. Oops).

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (2)

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (15)

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (6)

Sinclair Girnigoe 2014 (13)

Sinclair Girnigoe

Just outside Wick is Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, this cool ruin that’s basically sticking out into the sea. Although (as you can see) it was a stunning day, there was no one else there with us so we were able to stomp around pretending to be seeing off the Vikings to our heart’s content. This was something I loved about Caithness: all the ‘tourist attractions’ were unmanned and free to enter, most of them down random dirt tracks with no visitor centre, no real car park to speak of… very cool.

Orkney 2014 (2)

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Orkney 2014 (4)

Orkney 2014 (5)

Next stop, Orkney! The first Scottish island I have ever been to, though I have lived in Scotland 20 years next year. This is a weird selection of photos, but I was very, very preoccupied by Kirkwall’s incredible thrift shops. What can I say? I love a bargain more than just about anything else, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything in any of the charity shops of Kirkwall that’s more than a pound. Not kidding: I bought a ton of jewellery because everything was 20p! But I did have to stop and photograph that labrador. I got to scratch his ears, too!

Smoo Cave 2014 (13)

Smoo Cave 2014 (3)

Smoo Cave 2014 (5)

Smoo Cave 2014 (6)

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Smoo Cave 2014 (11)

Smoo Cave 2014 (12)

Back to the mainland, and next stop Smoo! (Real actual name.) The Smoo Cave is a cave the Vikings discovered, and it’s so big that they were able to hide, store and repair their longships inside. It was pretty incredible, and like the Caithness tourist attractions, surprisingly un-busy!

Tongue 2014 (2)

Tongue 2014 (1)

Gairloch 2014 (1)

Gairloch 2014 (3)

Gairloch 2014 (4)

After hours and hours of driving on tiny single-track, passing-place roads (and lots of playing dodge-the-outsize-camper-van!), we arrived in the West, at Tongue and then Gairloch. That third photo was the real-life, honest-to-god view from our Gairloch hostel window. This felt like proper shortbread-tin Scotland… and it had the tourists to match. Very quaint and cool, but personally, I preferred Caithness!

North Berwick 2014 (1)

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North Berwick 2014 (6)

North Berwick 2014 (9)

…and last but not least, a very local East Lothian spot. We got a scorching sunny day at one end of our trip so we decided to get on the train and go to North Berwick for paddling, yet more thrift stores (not Kirkwall standard, but still pretty good!) and the compulsory seaside poke-y-chips. Thanks, Summer 2014! You were awesome.

Where should I go next…?

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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!

Internet, I need your help: plan my holiday for me!

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Isle of Lewis

Hello everyone! Exciting news: I am headed to the Isle of Lewis next week!

Lovely Boyfriend are going to go and stay in a wooden hut next to the sea, with no internet connection or phone signal — and we’re hoping this will translate into writing, writing and more writing!

We’ll be very close to the Callanish standing stones (That’s them up there, in a stunning photo by the lovely and excellent Ms Julie Howden), on the other side of the island to Stornoway.

Just needs a roof! Northen Lights, Aurora Borealis, Great Bernera, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
(Photo credit)

Basically, I would like to know from you: what should I do with my holiday?

We’ll be spending two or three days driving from Edinburgh up to the crossing to Lewis, so first of all — what should we stop and see on the way? Is there anywhere amazing we can stay over to break our journey? We’ll have a car and all our camping gear, but we’d also be open to hotels, B&Bs, hostels, tree houses, hobbit holes — whatever!

Isle of Lewis
(Photo credit)

Secondly — what should we do while we’re on Lewis? What should we see? What time of day should we see it?

And thirdly — with Lewis as our basecamp, where else can we go? Which islands should we explore? Where can we see seabirds and ocean-dwelling critters?

Importantly: what can we do when it’s raining? What should we do if, by some miracle, it is fine? What will we need our wee car for, and what can we go and do on foot?

Stornoway Harbour at Dusk
(Photo credit)

Please do share your thoughts, ideas, recommendations, fangirlings, warnings and personal stories here in the comments box (NB: there is a mod queue), on Twitter, or by emailing claire[at]onenightstanzas.com

Thank you a million!

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #93

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

I’ve been pretty sick the past couple of weeks, with an absolute beast of a chest infection. However, some good stuff has been happening of late which has made me feel a little better. Check it out…

#whatveganseat

Vegan blueberry pancakes!

Vegan eats.
Lovely Boyfriend, aka my personal chef, really pulled out the stops while I was ill. Although I have no photo of it, the main thing I ate while I was at my most hoarse and stuffed up was an amazing vegan chilli full of delicious veggies and with tofu, beans and rice. LB made a massive pan of it so he could go to work and leave me with plenty of good healthy eats. It was totally wholesome and totally what I needed to feel better. As I started to feel more alive again, he celebrated the fact by making me the delicious stir fry in the top photo, with udon noodles (my favourite) and tofu and shiitake mushroom pot-sticker dumplings. AS AMAZING AS THEY LOOK. Then last weekend, my dear friend Lucy Florence — who’s been living in California these past few years — swung by for a whirlwind stop-over visit. That also needed celebrating, so LB cooked up some super tasty wholemeal and blueberry vegan pancakes for breakfast. He literally is the greatest.

Wildflowers in my window

Laburnum

Summertime.
Although the weather hasn’t been so stunning, I’ve been trying to keep in mind that it’s summer, hooray! The Warriston Path is absolutely brimming with gorgeous wildflowers at the moment: an absolute sea of cow parsley, plus plenty of buttercups, forget-me-nots and Jack-by-the-Hedge… which is what’s in my little bouquet above. There’s also ragged robin and even the odd cowslip, but obviously I only picked the most ubiquitous things, and did so carefully. And although there’s been a lot of rain, I am trying to think positively, and look up at the trees. They’re all so luminously green and lush, which means they’re enjoying the current weather. Given that trees are way more important than humans, I am trying to think of rain as “good” weather, instead of moaning about it. I mean… look at that laburnum, which I passed on a visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard. It’s clearly loving what the weather’s doing!

Presenting Scottish Book Trust's "john Muir: Earth-Planet, Universe" at the 2014 International John Muir Conference!

Presenting Scottish Book Trust's "john Muir: Earth-Planet, Universe" at the 2014 International John Muir Conference!

John Muir!  A lovely present for our team from the John Muir Trust :)

John Muir.
Look, it’s the Scottish Book Trust’s John Muir graphic novel, in the flesh!!! Although I only did a very little work on this project, I am still incredibly proud of it. It’s a graphic novel for 13-15 year olds that tells the story of John Muir’s (amazing) life, and promotes environmental responsibility and conservation. The top two photos are from the 2014 John Muir Conference, which I attended with my boss, Koren. We ran a stand, chatted to delegates, handed out copies of the book for free, and got to hear all the talks, which were incredible (keynote speaker George Monbiot, OMG!!!). You can find out more about what went down at the conference by checking out the Twitter hashtag #JM100Perth. And although all the physical books are spoken for (a class set has been sent, for free, to every secondary school in Scotland), you can read the entire thing in PDF format at our website… and if you’re a teacher or youth worker, you can also access our support materials!
The third photo is of a lovely gift given to Scottish Book Trust by our friends and colleagues at the John Muir Trust, who worked closely with us on the book. It now hangs in our office, right next to my desk. If ever I am feeling starved of inspiration, I look over at it and think of John Muir. He was a truly amazing man who produced so many inspirational writings and teachings, but my favourite quote of his (everyone who knows about him has one!) is:

The world is big, and I want to get a good look at it before it gets dark.

Given the oncoming “darkness” and uncertainty of climate change, I find this one spookily foreboding as well as encouraging. We’d all do well to live by this mantra, I think.

Word Power Books

JK Rowling never wrote here

Edinburgh.
Every so often, I get itchy feet. I like to think about what it might be like to live in one of my “dream locations”: in the UK, these are places like Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay or Ambleside; further afield, they’re places like Victoria (Canada), the San Juan Islands or Portland (Oregon). However, I think one of the reasons I’ve never quite made it to the suitcase-packing stage is… Edinburgh always calls me back. However chilly the winds, however lousy the trams, however ignored I feel when I talk about my political beliefs (I have notes, Mr Salmond), I can’t help but fall in love with this amazing city again and again and again. I mean, look at the poster I found in Word Power Books — Edinburgh’s bookshops are like places of worship, and most folk here absolutely know it. And look at that sign, currently sitting outside the Artisan Roast pop-up on Victoria Street (they also did a great Nigel Farage one)! Edinvarians know what side our bread’s buttered, but we’re also not afraid to poke fun at the tourists. Never change, Auld Reekie.

What are YOU loving this week?

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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!

Making Scotland Home: submit your story to Scotland’s Stories of Home!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

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Making It Home brought together many nationalities and cultures: the women hailed from places like Algeria, Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Iraq and Ghana, as well as Scotland, England and Ireland. What could all these very different women possibly have in common? The answer soon became clear: they all wanted to tell their stories of home.

Last week I wrote a blogpost for my lovely employers, Scottish Book Trust, about the Making It Home project. Why? Well partly because — as you probably know if you read this blog — I think MiH is an incredibly exciting project and everyone ought to know about it. But also because MiH was all about telling stories about home, and specifically, what it means to call Scotland home. And that’s exactly what SBT’s public participation campaign for 2014 is all about.

It’s called Scotland’s Stories of Home, and we want to hear the story of YOUR home in Scotland, whether you’re originally from here or you just moved here recently. You can write about anything, from the four walls you live in to the food smells that automatically make you think “Scotland”; from a distant childhood memory to a funny story you just heard last week. If it means “home” to you, we want to hear it. You don’t have to be a professional writer — the complete opposite, in fact! You just have to have a cool tale to tell. If you think this sounds like you, submit your story of home here, and you could be featured in the newspaper, on our website, or even in our Stories of Home book!

The deadline for SSoH submissions is 30th June. But wait… before you run off and submit, go and read the rest of my blogpost!

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Where is Claire?: talks, readings, happenings for Spring 2014

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg!

OK, it’s not quite Spring yet, but I am trying to be optimistic.
I’m doing some events, and I would like you to come to them, because it seems no matter how many readings etc I undertake, I still get deathly afraid at every single one. So please come to some of these Things and make me feel better.

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Greenlight presents New Scotland: New Culture?
Friday 7th February at Summerhall, 7pm. £5 and ticketed

“What is the role of culture in Scotland, now and in the future?
What can politicians and the state do to support culture and the arts while guaranteeing creative freedom?
As Scotland’s democracy evolves, should we seek to redefine what culture means in a national and international context?”
So, those are some big and scary questions, and I have been given a 15 minute TED-talk-style slot in which to try and answer them. Except erm, instead I am going to go slightly off-piste and talk about my personal favourite cultural issue: diversity and inclusion. I might also read a poem or two.
There will also be a bunch of other excellent speakers, who I imagine will stick to the brief a little better than me (sorry, everyone). There’ll also be music. And there’ll be Summerhall, which is always good. Please come along to this one, folks — my terror levels are significantly more elevated than usual for this event!

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Rally & Broad: And The Beat Goes On
Friday 21st February at The Counting House, 7.30pm. £5.

I’m pretty sure you already all know what the literary juggernaut that is Rally and Broad is all about. If you don’t, I’d like to know exactly where you’ve been hiding. Basically, it’s a massive monthly night of literary and musical delights; a cabaret-style set up showcasing some of the best creative talent from across Scotland and beyond. And if you only know one thing about it, you’ll know it’s hosted by Jenny Linsday and Rachel McCrum. From what I’ve seen on Flickr, they each wear a different fabulous frock every month and always look rather nifty.

I’m chuffed to have been asked to read at the February R&B, and I am already eyeing my wardrobe nervously, because what shall I wear?! More importantly, what shall I read, in order that I am not eclipsed by the very impressive humans appearing above me in the line-up?! Seriously, look at this — and then tell me you don’t want to be there. I’m pretty sure that’s the most EXCITING STUFF you can get for a fiver anywhere.

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Shore Poets: February
Sunday 23rd February at Henderson’s at St John’s, 7.15pm doors. £5 / £3 concessions.

OK, I am not performing at this one, but I will be floating around behind the scenes, supposedly helping out, but probably just being awkward and starstruck around the brilliant performers. This month, Shore Poets brings you the one-and-only William Letford, of whose work I am a major, major fangirl. Look him up on Youtube and see what I mean! And Mr Letford is only the start of it… we have not one but two headline poets this month, honorary Shore Poet Diana Hendry, and honorary Shore Poets president Stewart Conn. Both have brand spanking new books either just out, or coming very soon, so come along to hear (I assume) some exciting new work! On top of all this, we’ll be presenting the annual Mark Ogle Memorial Award, which this year went to the excellent Meg Bateman. AND there’ll be live music from The Whole Shebang, as well as our infamous lemon cake raffle. YOU can also read at this event, by bringing a poem, putting your name in the hat at the door, and then, if your lucky, getting picked for one of our two wildcard slots. Yep, you. Come along already!

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TenRed: April
Wednesday 2nd April at The Persevere Bar & Function Room, Leith, 7.30pm. £3.

Alright, I know this is still a little way away, but I am so excited that TenRed is back among us, and I’ve been asked to perform at it for the third time! April has a great line-up, which excitingly, includes Lovely Boyfriend (billed here as Stephen Welsh)! Never mind me, come and hear him. He barely ever performs anywhere, so take the opportunity to get a rare sighting! Look, there’s even a trailer:

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Photo by Chris Scott.

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!

Things I Love Thursday #88: Edinburgh details

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

2014 will be my tenth year in Edinburgh. It’s not a big city — you can walk around most of it in a day. So every so often I convince myself that I know it inside out now, that I’ve seen everything. Not so! There are always little details to spot, which is one of the things I love about it.

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<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

<3 Edinburgh

If destroyed, true.  If not destroyed, still true.

<3 Edinburgh

Help ma boab!  (Edinburgh)

Bunny, Edinburgh

Pasty ghost, Edinburgh

What are YOU loving this week?

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #86: Christmas in Edinburgh

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

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Happy holidays, all!

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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!

Things I Love Thursday #85: Book Week Scotland

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Dear everyone, but especially those of you I promised a BWS 2013 blogpost to,

I am sorry this post comes nearly a full month after Book Week Scotland actually happened. The fact I did not blog about it immediately after has nothing to do with the quality of BWS 2013 (it was utterly awesome, in fact). It does, however, have a great deal to do with the fact that my PhD viva (yep) came very swiftly after BWS 2013, and went from “that thing I am working hard at not thinking about” to “that thing that is consuming my whole life right now.” Terribly sorry about that. Hopefully, late is better than never. Here’s how I spent my Book Week Scotland 2013. How about you?

xo, Claire

Sunday night: Shore Poets November
OK, so at this point BWS 2013 was still about four hours away from its official kick-off, and I should probably note that SP November wasn’t an official Book Week Scotland event. It did make a nice literary appetiser for the delicious wordy smorgasbord that was about to follow, however.

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The event featured the ever-witty Tracey S Rosenberg in the New Poet slot — among other cool stuff that happened during her set, she wore a great skirt with kitties on it, and read a really excellent poem about and dedicated to the infamous Shore Poets lemon cake. Nice work.

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Christine de Luca was the Shore Poet, and her reading was incredible as ever. She mostly read poems in Shetland dialect, which was a delight to hear. My favourite was her poem about the Canadian First Nations woman who made a purse out of swan’s feet. And me a vegan!

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The headline poet was Gerrie Fellows, who I’ll admit, I’ve never seen read before — nor have I read any of her work in print. But she was on fine form and read on a variety of subjects. Her poem about coming across the ruins of a crashed aircraft was especially great, as was her sound poem about pointing out deer to a small child.

I should perhaps mention that I once again reprised my role as Scotland’s most awkward literary MC at this particular event!

Monday: Making It Home for Book Week Scotland, “Words Against Violence.”
Book Week Scotland officially began on 25th November 2013! And I was READY FOR IT.

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If you’ve even glanced in passing at this blog in the past year, you’ll know all about the Making It Home Project, aka Possibly The Best Thing I Have Ever Been A Part Of In My Life Ever. Well, because the Book Week Scotland team are excellent, they decided Making It Home needed its own space at BWS 2013, so we teamed up with Glasgow Women’s Library to create the “Words Against Violence” event. I read the project poems — including some of the poems written by our gorgeous participants — and we watched the project films, then had a brilliant, thought provoking discussion that was supposed to be panel-format, but ended up just being everyone sitting in a circle with a cuppa and having a really, really good chat. So my kind of event! Here are some pics:

Glasgow Women's Library: the volunteer tree!
This is the GWL volunteer tree. I utterly love the concept, and the execution! So lovely.

Glasgow Women's Library: the volunteer tree!
It’s a great way to mark the vital contribution of each volunteer.

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GWL’s Gabrielle kicking off the event. (Thank you so much Gabrielle, for your warm welcome and all your capable assistance!)

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Making It Home’s project manager Esa, aka Wonderwoman.

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Thoughtful faces as the films play…

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Oh, Glasgow. Never change.

Tuesday night: Talking Heids (for Book Week Scotland)
Talking Heids is Edinburgh’s magical new(ish) spoken word night on the block, hosted by one of my all-time favs Colin McGuire (pictured here):

Colin McGuire, the magical MC of Talking Heids

It happens on the third Tuesday of every month (I think? It’s once a month and it’s on a Tuesday night, anyway) at Sofi’s in Leith, and each month two poets are featured. For the BWS event, the two poets were Rob A Mackenzie and Rachel Amey. Rob took us on a brilliant chronological tour through his works, starting with the first poem he ever had published, and ending with brand spanking new hot-off-the-printer work. Rachel, meanwhile, read 100% from memory as always, and as always, blew my mind. Her NHS poem never stops giving me chills.

The lovely audience at Talking Heids November

There is also an open mic at the end, and among the acts at the BWS one were yours truly, and the really great Mr Roddy Shippin, lurking rather suspiciously by the door in the photo above. Also up at the mic was the barman, who read a Philip Larkin poem rather excellently, and then, emboldened, took out one of his own poems and read his work in public for the first time ever. The poem (he insisted it was not a poem, “just some lines I wrote on a train,” but if that’s not a poem then my whole writing career has been a huge lie) was great, and I always love it when such things happen. Things like that happening are why tiny open mics in pubs are awesome, and why people who pay to listen to poetry are awesome, and why Book Week Scotland is awesome. Yay!

Wednesday night: The 2013 Margaret Harris lecture.
OK, this was not a Book Week Scotland event. In fact, I had to not go to a Book Week Scotland event in order to go to this! But it was for work, and it was fascinating, although I disagreed with a whole lot of it and found the speaker, Tom Devine, somewhat maddening. Fun fact: ten minutes into the lecture (at a kind of pivotal moment, too) we were all evacuated and lots of firemen called because some mime artists set off a smoke machine in the next room. Dramz! Also, my first ever trip to Dundee!

Thursday night: night off.
(I needed to regroup. Also I’d temporarily run out of BWS pin badges to give out.)

Friday night: Communal Dolphin Snouting
Probably the less said about the title of this event, the better (there were lots of squeaky inflatable dolphin-shaped fairground hammer things hanging from the ceiling when I arrived, and as one of the performers I felt somewhat nervous. Fortunately, said dolphin-hammers were not used to attack me, so I must have done OK). Mainly because it means I can say more about PhiFA — full name, the Berlin Philosophical Football Association.

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(Photo credit Andrew McCue)

Wait, what? I hear you cry… yep, philosophical football. It’s basically a live philosophical debate, wherein pro philosophers team up with citizen thought-mongers picked from the crowd, and are timed, refereed and commentated upon as in football. A Muse provides topics to be debated, and ninety minutes of debate follows. Free kicks can be given for cliches and sentimentality, while yellow and red cards can be handed out for things like cheesiness or plagiarism. All the while, a match photographer rapidly makes colourful drawings of the participants, or renders their ideas and arguments into visual form. And scribbling away simultaneously is the match poet… on this occasion, you guessed it, me.

The match poet writes up the match report in the form of a poem — in real time, as the debate is going on. The poem must be finished by the final whistle, and performed live in front of the spectators. As you can imagine, the pressure was pretty intense… but actually, the lovely philosophers provided me with plenty of material, and I managed to come up with a two-part poem (for a two-part match, natch) that I was actually pretty pleased with. The audience seemed to like it, too! So thanks, Book Week Scotland, for putting me way out of my comfort zone, but in what proved to be a good way!

Saturday night: The Inky Fingers / Book Week Scotland Dead Poet Slam
One night.
A dozen dead poets.
A time machine.
A stage.
An audience.
One amazing gig…

(In all seriousness: this great event, fronted by the aforementioned and excellent Tracey S Rosenberg, was a slam with a difference. Each competitor had to perform not their own work, but the work of their favourite dead poet, preferably in costume and ideally with props and a funny voice, where applicable. I was one of the judges — dressed as Dame Edith Sitwell in the spirit, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the evening — and let me tell you, this was a TOUGH contest. Finally won by the utterly brilliant Anne Connolly, who, as my fabulous fellow judge Alice Tarbuck pointed out, could become a professional WB Yeats impersonator.)

Here are some pics:

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: Aphra Behn and Edith Sitwell
Alice Tarbuck and I as Aphra Behn and Edith Sitwell respectively, sitting at the judging table of doom.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: Kurt Schwitters!
MC Kurt Schwitters, aka Ali Maloney, aka Harlequinade.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: defending champion Charles Bukowski!
Defending champ Charles Bukowski, aka Colin McGuire.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: host with the most, Dorothy Parker!
Hostess with the mostess Dorothy Parker, aka Tracey S Rosenberg.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: a triumphant WB Yeats!
The new champ WB Yeats, aka Anne Connolly!

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: performers!
Top secret judging paperwork.

The Book Week Scotland/Inky Fingers Dead Poet Slam: the scary judges, Edith Sitwell, Aphra Behn and Vita Sackville-West
Scary judges Edith Sitwell (aka me), Aphra Behn (aka Alice Tarbuck) and Vita Sackville-West (aka Jane McKie).

Thanks Book Week Scotland, for the words, the books, the banter, and OVER 600 EVENTS SCOTLAND-WIDE! Already looking forward to 2014!

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