Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Snow People of Edinburgh

 We had a lot of snow last night and some people have been taking the opportunity to build some snow people!! Here are just a few of them!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Seasons Greetings to All My Blog Readers



Seasons Greetings 

to all my blog readers! 


Wishing you all the best for what, for most of us, is the strangest ever festive season.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Chaos in the Mall

The president of the so-called free world
is throwing fire crackers round the shopping mall
like a toddler in a temper tantrum who has somehow
got his hands on a gun.

Screams echo round the shops and corridors
people cower behind their shopping trolleys
“Muslims! Mexicans! Terrorists!”
shouts the president of the so-called free world.

I creep up behind him, pushing my trolley
that is laden with hummus and tacos.
I try to calm him down
but he throws a firecracker in my face.

And then I wake. 
To my readers in the USA, if you haven't voted early, please vote today. It's not my election, but this one, more than ever matters to the whole world.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Bi-Visibilty Day

Every year since 1999, 23 September has been Bi-Visibility Day

Here are some of the articles I found and first posted on Bi-Visibility Day a few years ago:

Ignoring the B in LGBTQI denies us our identity by Vonny Moyes in The National

Why I don't like being asked which gender I prefer by Zachary Zane on Bustle

an article on how to be a bi-ally (with a nice bisexual umbrella).

an article from the National Union of Students about the importance of Bisexuality Visibility Day

an older article about the need for Bisexuality Visibility Day.

Bi Community News is Britain's Bimonthly Bisexual magazine.

And I've been thinking about bisexual films of which there don't seem to be many, this is just off the top of my head but there's

101 Rekyavik
Chasing Amy
Don't Look at Me That Way (which I reviewed for last year's Bi-Visibility Day here

Treacle (which I reviewed here).

Friday, September 04, 2020

The new work flexibility

Many organisations are talking about enabling more flexible working as lockdown is relaxing and that’s brilliant. We don’t want to go back to the days when most people who worked in offices were required to be there from 9am until 6pm every week day.

Flexibility is great, it allows people to start earlier or finish later to suit their preferences and responsibilities, it allows for part time or condensed hours, it allows people to schedule medical appointments without having to take time off in the middle of the day, it allows people to work from home if they want, maybe every day, perhaps once a week or perhaps while they wait for a plumber to turn up, or for a morning if they have an afternoon meeting that’s closer to home than it is to the office.

It’s also understandable that as lockdown eases, people want to work from home as they have legitimate concerns about working in a crowded office or taking long journeys in crowded public transport where the ‘mandatory’ rule about mask wearing isn’t enforced and therefore isn’t obeyed.

As a freelancer, I work (in normal times) in a variety of places, sometimes outdoors, sometimes indoors, but always my home is my office base and I am used to that and happy with it (though I prefer face to face working with students or colleagues.)

However, not everyone can work from home and statements about flexible working can become virtue signalling from companies that actually want everyone to work from home so they can save on office costs. My partner works for an organisation that used to be very averse to flexible working, requiring everyone to be in the office every day unless they had meetings out of the office. Now, however, the same organisation seem to want to push everyone to work from home all the time. My partner however is looking forward to returning to the office and we don’t have enough space in the flat to both work comfortably at home full time.

This new commitment to flexibility is tied to the organisation’s desire to cut costs and doesn’t necessarily help employees:

1. Some people’s homes aren’t ideal for working in:

You may be sitting at the kitchen table with a laptop balanced on top of a cardboard box or on the sofa with your laptop on your knees. You may be trying to balance working with educating your children. You may be trying to do your job in one corner of the room, while your partner is trying to do their job in the other corner of the room.

2. It’s important to realise too that working in an office does have benefits:

a) the ability to interact with colleagues more effectively, it allows for conversations in passing, whether that’s a nice social break or an interesting insight into a work project. It allows for the development of a corporate culture (for good or bad!) and effective team working.

b) an effective separation between work and home, which many people find really valuable, if the commute isn’t too long.

Yes, there are times when video conferences are very useful (if people are scattered geographically) but for many people they are more tiring and less effective than face to face meetings.

It's also worth considering that the much vaunted environmental benefits of mass home working aren't as clear cut as many commentators seem to think. Yes, if everyone worked from home then there would be fewer vehicles on the roads and less air pollution and less fuel used. However, if everyone's working from home then it's likely that everyone will be given their own printer/scanner/photocopier rather than sharing the office equipment and lots of individual homes will likely be lit up and heated or air conditioned all day rather than just the offices.

As we move into the new normal that lies beyond the COVID_19 pandemic we need to offer better working conditions to everyone and that means that flexible working should allow employees to work as they want to, as long as they are able to do the job they are paid to do. So it should be equally fine for people who can’t or don’t want to be in the office to work from home with good video links to their colleagues, but it should also be fine for people to work in the office except for the occasional bit of homeworking if they need to wait in for a plumber. Plus, people should be supported in their choices, whether that’s by supplying them with the required technology to effectively do their job from home or by ensuring that the office is a safe place to work – regularly deep cleaned and provided with the necessary protective equipment, good ventilation and social distancing.


A version of this article first appeared here on Pendemic.  

The Guardian newspaper has a selection of articles on working from home.

Sunday, April 19, 2020


Malawi is a small landlocked country in Africa (where I lived for a couple of years).

It's one of the most vulnerable of African countries, where the first confirmed cases of COVID_19 have been reported. The impact of the coronavirus on the people of Malawi could be devastating.

Malawi has only 350 clinical doctors to treat a population of 18 million people. Even the largest hospitals lack the basic equipment needed to treat the most serious cases.

Chifundo UK and Chanasa Malawi are two small sister charities whose aim is to empower girls and women in Malawi. They are now making masks and gowns for those who care for people with COVID-19. 

The focus of this appeal is to support the health service for the poor and vulnerable in the Blantyre District.

Admittedly, we don’t have all that we need in this country to combat COVID-19, but the situation is so much worse in a poor country like Malawi.

You can find out more and support this appeal here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Scenes from Edinburgh cemetries during #DailyExercise

The UK Government is, at the moment, allowing us out for one form of #DailyExercise once a day in addition to visiting the shops (as infrequently as possible), travelling to work (for those with essential jobs that can't be done from home) and medical emergencies including helping those who are self isolating.

Our route for our #DailyExercise takes us through a small community park and two cemeteries. You can see the nature notes from these walks over on my Crafty Green Poet blog, but here are photos of some of the most notable gravestones in the two cemeteries

Monday, March 02, 2020

How International is the English Language?

I'm used to rejection. It's part of life being a writer and in fact I can see a lot of value in the 'aim for 100 rejections in a year' idea. However, the best rejections offer constructive criticism or are neutral in tone. Today I received a really rude rejection from an American editor who suggested that though 'people in Scotland may speak like that' people in America would not want to read it.

Now I accept that there may be good reasons that my story didn't get included in the anthology in question but this is not a good reason. 

The characters are Scottish, the setting is Scotland, sometime in the medium future. There are three styles of speaking in the story, there are those who speak an urban Scots-influenced English, those who speak a Western Isles style of English influenced by the rhythms of Gaelic (the first language of many people in those islands) and there is a character who speaks a very careful English because it's his second language and he doesn't want to make errors. All the ways of speaking are slightly different than they are now, because, well it's the future and language changes.

I haven't included swear words or particularly obscure Scots words and I've kept all elements of Scots in the dialogue, rather than in the narrative. To my eye, all the characters speak a readable form of English, with some influences from Scots and the rhythms of Gaelic. This makes the characters more individual and adds authenticity to the story. After all, people in Scotland don't actually speak like Americans and I certainly don't want to think that in the medium future, we'll all have, like, American accents.

Why shouldn't Americans want to read this? After all, Scottish cinemas show loads of American films and we have to listen to accents and dialects from across the States. I can't imagine a British editor would tell an American writer that they couldn't accept a story set in America because the characters sound too American!

People have different ways of speaking and reflecting that in fiction is surely a positive not a negative.

Sunday, February 02, 2020