The one where I went to the zoo…

Ok. Since 20th January, things have gotten very bad in the western world. Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel may be our greatest hope! 🙂 I literally haven’t really slept since Obama left the White House, and been working lots (my only day off last week was spent at the dentist and then doing youth work in the evening). And last week was week 6 since last getting paid. So on Saturday after work, armed with a Christmas gift in the form of a cinema voucher I headed for some happy escape with a few of my work friends. We saw La la Land. I loved it (though, I’ll be honest some of the sound editing seemed very poor – don’t know if that was the film or the cinema). One friend loved it, the other was very unhappy about the ending!

Monday was pay day! HURRAH! This meant a supermarket grocery delivery (i.e. proper meals again) and I decided to renew my membership to Edinburgh Zoo. One of my supervising managers hadn’t been since she was a kid and has been wanting to go for ages and it is rare that we have a day off on the same day. Monday was one of those rare days and so we made plans. We were blessed with a dry sunny-ish day, though very frosty, and ended up spending the whole day there. The zoo was quiet due to kids being in school and cold weather. It felt very peaceful. We both had our fancy cameras, but struggled to get good photos due to fences and glass. But here are a few pics that I hope you can enjoy! 🙂 We actually got to see both Yang Guang (the male panda) and Alinga (female koala) awake. Seeing pandas and koalas awake at the zoo is rare, so felt very privileged!

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The one where I tell you about the first dream I had in 2017…

Yesterday I went to the City Art Centre for a wander with my lovely friend Beth (yes, same Beth of twisty tree and wedding road trip fame). We were recounting some strange dreams we had last night when I suddenly remembered the bizarre dream I had on New Year’s morning. As I described the bizarre events of my slumbering brain, one of the art centre staff who was sitting in the gallery piped up “Does this involve an exorcism?!” started laughing told me I had to write this dream down and how hearing about it had cheered up his day.

Well Mr City Art Centre man, I’m glad my crazy brain could be of service. ha ha!

Here’s what happened.

I was staying in a beach resort for hogmanay, when suddenly I realised that I had left my camera at home. It was a beautiful day and I wanted it for our walks – it was summer and yet there was also snow. After breakfast I decided to drive home to get my camera…

I reach home and find alarm going off in the house. My Mum is surprised to see me back and I’m yelling to her – “the alarm’s going off! It must be the Christmas tree lights!” As I enter the house, the room with the Christmas tree is giving off some hazy fumes. I see in the room next to it, magpies are jumping in through a high up window and they are hopping about the carpet. My Mum and I realise that the fumes from the Christmas tree (caused by the lights! the lights!) are possibly about to cause the house to explode. The magpies also suggest this about to happen. So we run out the house and into the street.

I pause. I assess the situation (it was only the start of the magpies coming in) and decide I have enough time to go back into the house to rescue my camera, laptop and phone before the potential explosion.

When I come back down with said items, the room with the magpies has now filled up with all sorts of birds. I think most of them have come from the local zoo, and there are still a few flying up and climbing through the window. At the head of the group nearest the door to the room are a few small grey and white fluffy penguins wearing woolly hats.

They follow me out the house – a bird procession running from the Christmas tree which seems to have stopped giving off fumes, so we don’t know if crisis has been averted for now. An explosion seems a little less likely, but the alarm and general kerfuffle has caused the neighbours to all come out their front doors and into the street – one is comforting my Mum as the penguins and the rest of the birds follow me down the street….and everyone starts singing ‘Kiss Today Goodbye’ (What I Did For Love) from A Chorus Line as this parade of birds waddles down the snowy pavement in the sunshine.

And then I woke up.

The first thought I had was “What the heck?!” and my second thought was “How the heck did the penguins get through the high up window….penguins can’t fly?“.

So there you have it blog friends. An insight to why I struggle to get back to sleep when I wake up…this is what my brain gets up to at night!!

Blogmas Day 13: the one where I miss “old fashioned blogging” too…

So I’m feeling pretty rubbish, I think everyone at my work is. We are exhausted not just because of work but life too (for a lot of us). I had something happen today that usually I’d write about. But over the last few years I’ve found myself blogging less and less. Gone are the days when all my friends were blogging about just everyday life. When we would comment on each others posts, when meeting for the first time was no big deal because in fact we knew so much about each other already.

It was very easy to go from a social media friendship to an in-real-life friendship with Emily and Mark, Ruth, Rebecca, Paula, Holly, Jeff and Christine, Sarah and Lee…and many others.

Many of those people don’t blog anymore. And today as I was sitting at home, snuggled in bed exhausted and aimlessly scrolling through my feedly, I came across Callie’s post on “Old fashioned blogging“.  Callie is one of Rebecca’s blog friends and been a regular Airmail Christmas participant. But today she just hit the nail on the head. I miss blogs being just about life. Real, authentic life. Nothing polished. No need for perfect professional photographs. No constant sponsored reviews of products or services. Not a place to practice for a book or promote a ministry.

I miss the days when I heard about my friend’s struggles putting Christmas duvets on her kids’ beds. Or when my response to the problem by videoing how I put a duvet cover on a duvet led to a whole bunch of people reading a Christmas poem so we had a range of accents (because my American friends found my Scottish accent so funny). I miss the days when I was hearing about a silly thing that happened when my friend was on her way to university. Or the struggles of parenting and debt. A friend’s passion for photography and why they loved it. The ponders of the political, the ethical, and the evolution of beliefs and opinions that were ever-changing and ever-challenged by new experiences, different thoughts and conversations with people from a variety of cultures. There was always a lovely mixture of the mundane, funny and sharing stories that had deep wounds. And smiling, crying, laughing and empathising….together.

There was so much beauty in the blog community, before it got overtaken by capitalism.

Is it possible to ever reclaim that?

Can we ever go back to Old Fashioned Blogging?

I really miss it.

Not just writing my own life in blog form, but reading everyone else’s, and feeling like you were not just a stranger, but a friend.

Blogmas Day 2 – The one about my Christmas tree…

img_6231My Christmas Tree has become quite well known over the years. I confess in 2014 I didn’t put it up. I was so depressed that Christmas, all I did was put up the fairy lights which I bought to replace broken ones, not realising they weren’t long enough for the tree. I sellotaped them behind my bed and up the side of the sloping wall on Christmas Eve in the hopes of cheering me up.

And I never took them down.

Last year, my Mum asked me to put my tree up in the living room. It was just the two of us for Christmas, and on the 27th December she was heading to visit her best friend in Oklahoma. Any time she’s gone to spend Hogmanay in Oklahoma she has refused to put her own decorations up.

The reason my tree gets attention is due to the way I decorate it. You see rather than tinsel and baubles, the branches get adorned by tiny woollen hats that I started collecting in 2004.

I suffer from S.A.D. – I think most people do to some extent. I get it fairly badly, and I finally got a sun clock last year. As soon as the nights start drawing in I start crying. I hate being cold and can go for days without going outside. I suffer from insomnia and at times become so sleep deprived my brain turns to mush. I’ll forget what day of the week it is and have been known to find my belongings in weird places (a particularly strange moment was finding my phone charger with the leftover remnants of a honey and spice cake in a tupperware box).

The hats were part of a campaign to raise money for the elderly that used to be held every November/December by Innocent Drinks. It was originally called Supergran, then became known as The Big Knit. Those little hats would cheer me up just as things started to get really bad. I’d collect them throughout November – the highlight of my week would be picking out the perfect hats on bottles of smoothies.

In 2014, after a really crappy 5 months of unemployment no hats arrived in November. I haven’t collected any since as there is little incentive to get them in February and have nowhere to put them until December!

This year, I find myself in the same place. Two years of depression has left my room in quite the state. I have piles of stuff everywhere, and no energy or motivation to go through it all, mainly because I know there’s nowhere for it to go. There’s nowhere for the tree to go. Where it used to be placed is where a bookcase now lives (since 2014 I’ve acquired 3 additional bookcases in this room. One was meant to be for my vinyl – it has been overtaken by university textbooks and all many books I bought for work that used to reside in my old office).

I know I should just take a day and clear some space, put up the tree. But honestly, I think not having any new hats to be excited about putting on it has made me kind of ‘meh’ about it.

But I should do it. Because this tree has always made me smile. I love my little hats. I know that seeing it makes people laugh (at me, or with me?). And there’s something about the fact that it’s not a picture perfect catalogue Christmas tree that makes it feel just right. Because I’m someone who like comfort, colour and cosiness over sophistication!

I haven’t managed to do it yet, but perhaps I will put it up over the weekend.

We’ll see. 🙂

P.S. There are some new additional fairy lights out – I might get more so each bookcase has some!

 

The one where I encourage you to find joy in the little things…

There have been a lot of tears this week. And I’ve had to remind myself that also this week my friend announced a pregnancy, another friend gave birth to twins, and I was asked to be a godmother. And they are wonderful, wonderful things. My Guides made me giggle with their holiday pitches to planets in the Solar System and why THEIRS is the planet to visit (Not only does Saturn have many rings around it, but also has some of the best restaurants with every orange food and drink you can imagine). And I found out just how competitive some of the Senior Section are when they created a game of Harry Potter themed pictionary.

So as well as tracking down car hire deposits, fighting with electricity companies tenants signed me up for by way of lying (cheers for that) and just another week of being kicked down just as you think things are getting better…there have been little things.

The meeting I had with two guys about creating a website and chatting about community building. The ‘alien’ we came across in my old hometown caused by someone spilling paint on the abandoned road. The fact that I got some fresh bread in my supermarket delivery after work on Tuesday night which meant I was able to have lovely thickly cut warm buttery toast on Wednesday morning. Getting thanks from teachers and parents and grandparents at my workplace. I got to meet my friend’s baby girl for the first time and got in some baby snuggles (and yes, said baby tried to eat my clothes). I discovered a girl in my church I hadn’t met before is doing my postgrad course, and I was able to lend her my old textbooks.

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There’s little scraps of joy in amongst the many hours of crappiness. And I’m holding on to them.

 

The one where I admit I am one of those people you were warned about…

Hi from the koala tree!

This koala is still a little sleepy, and is now working 5 days a week, plus two evenings with Girlguiding and a few hours with Positive Transitions. There’s also been lots of exciting things like Gavin and Joy getting married, and then a certain blogger getting a VERY exciting phone call which means she’s currently in hospital but for the BEST of reasons, and then last night I got an exciting phone call myself as I’ve been asked to be a godmother to an amazing much prayed for little man.

But the main reason for my quick post is because I was having some major giggles on the bus back from a meeting today, reading this post by Mark. Two days after I came out of work to 17 tweets from an anonymous tweeter who was accusing me of being “a liberal elite, pro choice, Hillary Clinton supporter, hypocrite and encourager of sexual assault (amongst other things…I lost track and I eventually used the power of my block button).

This post amused me because

1. I’m pretty much a vegetarian

2. Despite being both a left wing person, vegetarian…and NOT EVEN AMERICAN (never mind not Southern!), Mark and his family allowed me to honour his daughter through Airmail Christmas and by sending me Smiley for Kylie stuff to wear during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

3. Starting up a conversation in a café with a total stranger is totally something I would do. And have done.

Basically, I’m exactly the kind of person Mark’s friends warned him and his wife about finding on the West Coast of the USA. Except I’m in cold, grey rainy Scotland! ha ha!

But mostly, I love the important message that Mark is trying to get across in a really non threatening and hilarious way that I would never be able to achieve.

And to address the anonymous twitterer – For the record, I’m not a Hillary fan (I was all about Bernie, and moped that he couldn’t be our Prime Minister), but it would be true to say that I think that she is capable of doing the job of president where as the Republican and Libertarian candidates are not. I don’t agree with some of the things she’s done in her past. However she does have some policies that I would stand with her on, and I couldn’t say the same for Donald. And I don’t know if Gary has any policies as he didn’t seem to know any world leaders and I’m not sure blowing a long raspberry counts as a policy statement. If Samantha Cameron runs for Prime Minister of the UK in the future then I won’t be judging her based on how much I despised her husband’s acts as Prime Minister from 2010-2016. And I’m a fan of Caroline Lucas, but trust me if it came out that she’d said “Oh, I can grab a man’s **** whenever I like because I’m the leader of the Green Party” I’d take issue with that as much as I have at a certain presidential candidate saying something similar – I wasn’t surprised that video came out, it’s not exactly news that he says and believes heinous things. Ugh. And USA, I’m sorry he’s been dragging my least favourite British politician over to ‘advise’ him on his campaign. You should know however that his adviser has caused our country’s economy to go pretty much down the toilet, increased hate crime (of all kinds) to increase by over 100% in the UK and people who believed his campaign which was mostly based on twisted truths, made up promises with no research and blatant lies are now scratching their heads and wondering what the heck has just happened. And you just had 8 years of a president people told me was the anti-christ, who has treated people with respect and not had a personal life scandal before or while in office. I think that shows some good ‘family values’…or am I completely missing what the meaning of that strange (to me) phrase means?

Hoping the best for you (and in turn, the rest of the world because who you vote for affects all of us over the next 4 years) next month on election day USA! 🙂

The one where it’s my weekend…

…and after 36 hours of migraine (ick) I feeling a lot more human today! Actually, over the last few days, I’ve begun to feel less fatigued and tired after weeks of feeling rubbish. And today I’ve taken advantage of that by cooking vegetarian bolognese for the first time  (success, it tasted yummy) and a toffee pear crumble (a fail, it’s waaaayyy too sugary). And started to wash through the box of winter clothes (they smell of plastic box, and I’m loving the 20 min quick wash option on the new washing machine), I have clean sheets on the bed and towels and blankets have been washed.

I’m hugely grateful that I’m feeling better as the next week is going to be pretty full on. A long day at work followed by picking up a hire car and driving through the night with two women so we can watch our friend get married on Saturday. And then youth work and paid work…

Tomorrow will be the last day of childhood cancer awareness month too. I’ll miss the yellow, but now that the weather has turned I’m happy to exchange the gold shoes for my boots and my yellow summer tops for long sleeves! But the Smiley for Kylie bracelet is staying on for a long time to come.

And I hope that I’ll be feeling ok for ages so I can get back to regularly blogging something a bit more thought provoking than me whinging! 🙂

 

 

The one where I talk about #edbookfest

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August is nearly over, and like every year, I’ve been spending it consumed in books. I had to ditch some of the books I had begun at the start of the summer to focus on these 3 in an attempt to finish them before I met the authors who wrote them.

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I confessed to Sue Perkins (and apologised) for the fact that somewhere in the ether the Senior Section girls have video footage of me pretending to be Sue when they ran their own Bake-Off night. She asked me how I did that. I just had to say that I was told to comment on their baking by mentioning dodgy baking innuendos like ‘soggy bottoms’ etc. Sorry Sue once again. Because you’re so lovely and I simply could never do you justice. Actress I am most definitely not (except for that first day of high school when I got myself out of a detention by crying).

And of course then when I meet the authors I can’t not buy their books and have them signed if I hadn’t gotten a copy already. I can’t wait to get a moment to read Tim Burgess’ book which all about a challenge he set to find copies of vinyl in record stores around the world recommended by various artists. He was interviewed by Ian Rankin, who is well known in Edinburgh for writing the Rebus novels, frequenting the Oxford Bar and being a vinylophile. Ian gave me three recommendations of vinyl records I needed to buy when I got my first record player back in April. I asked Tim if he would be willing to do the same. He very kindly did…

So yes. I’ve had to give one of my tickets back, but hoping to make the final event I have booked if I finish work on time and the buses are on my side this weekend!

Meanwhile, I need to get off my blog and finish putting together the accounts for the two Girlguiding units I volunteer with. There has already been some hair tearing out over the Guides’ ones (too many people handling the moneys this year, not to mention the chaos of going from 9 to 24 Guides over the course of year. So it’s a bit of a mess that I’m sorting out). Seriously though, volunteering is GREAT. Meanwhile I’m appreciating even more my wonderful staff Pam and Emily, and my co-manager Sarah from when I ran the community centre and the pregnancy centre who did all the bookkeeping work. Like seriously…I’m so grateful because this is not my natural gifting. I can do it, I will get there. But man, this is my least favourite task of running a Girlguiding unit.

Help me.

Ok. Really am going now.

And to do accounting.

Not read The Little Paris Bookshop.

The one where I have a rant about sexism in sport…

I grew up with a Dad who worked in football. I was the first female born into the family in quite a number of years, and the boys – well they were introduced to football from an early age. Like most kids, I wanted to be just like my Daddy – and that meant I wanted to play football.

When I got to primary school, the boys in the playground told me and my friend Tracey (who was probably the best at sports out of anyone in our class -male or female) that we couldn’t play football with them because we were girls. Kids will be kids, and we were mostly at that stage were the other sex is apparently ‘gross’ and ‘icky’. But the main injustice that sparked for me was when I was around 7 (I think) and our primary school teacher announced that our school was starting our first sports team – a football team! I was sooo excited. And then I got told I wasn’t allowed to join because it was only for the boys.

Yes folks.

Our school only provided a sports team for boys to join, but nothing for the girls.

That may have been when I started campaigning for a pupil council so we could change things like that. Sadly, the ‘boys only’ football team remained so while I was there. The same happened in high school. There was a rugby team for the boys, a hockey team for the girls. About a year into high school they introduced a football team – only for the boys. Despite the fact we had some talented female football players in my school (one of them was in my class – even the boys wanted her on their team during the football module of the hideous compulsory P.E. lessons I endured for four years of high school).

Like what the actual ding dong heck?! This was the 90s people. Hadn’t feminism already been through a few waves by this point?

People have asked me once again during this Olympics – “Laurie, how do you know so much about gymnastics?” They assume I grew up a gymnast.

I’ve never done gymnastics in my life.

I mean, I had a few lessons as part of P.E. at school which involved doing forward and backward rolls, attempting handstands and I think at one point trying to somersault through the air and landing on a crash mat. But I was pretty terrible.

But I fell in awe of gymnastics at the 1996 Olympics. They could do all the things I couldn’t as well as dance. Only throughout the year, it was hard to find coverage of the competitions.

Over the years I’ve been disappointed with the lack of coverage. One year just before one of the British gymnasts won a Bronze medal at the European Championships, the tv coverage suddenly stopped halfway through her routine and switched to a football pundit show. I, along with the British Gymnastics community were spitting mad (especially when it turned out we missed watching a medal performance from one of our country’s gymnasts!)

And so I’ve been the one trying to find live feeds online, befriending sports journalists attending competitions, hounding them for updates and scores and details. When there’s a great achievement it rarely makes the sports homepages, and definitely not the back page of the papers along with the rest of a few select sports where only the men who compete get reported on.

That is annoying enough.

But then there is the sexism. Whether it’s journalists and commentators who simply haven’t done their homework or commentators who spend their time making comments about how a woman athlete is looking or referring to her as a ‘girl’ or ‘lady’ (have you ever heard a male footballer being referred to as a ‘gentleman’ while he is on the pitch?). The 19 year old gymnast is ‘so cute’. The six time gold medallist who hasn’t quite taken in what just happened is described as looking to his four time gold medallist fiancee “wondering what’s for tea”. Apparently women don’t want to win enough if they are having to pose for pictures with toothpaste because that company is giving her an endorsement. Which is weird, because I’m sure I saw two time Gold medallist man gymnast posing with a car on instagram, and it didn’t seem to affect  his performances. And man, that running guy (what’s his name again? 😉 ) he seemed to be on my TV a lot trying to get me to switch broadband companies, and seems to pose for a lot of pics – even taking pictures of his mates with journalists’ cameras during the Olympics – but I think he just defended his Olympic title too.

What is most annoying is the people that argue that “well, they didn’t mean to be sexist”. Well perhaps the woman who wrote about how difficult she found it when her white daughter brought home her black boyfriend “didn’t mean to be racist”. But it doesn’t take away from the fact…IT IS.

And we need to address it. Because it starts with a comment…and some cat calling…then turning a blind eye to women getting groped on public transport..and it can lead to us growing adults who believe it’s ok for men to rape a woman because marriage means sex on demand.

So back to that question everyone keeps asking me: why do I know so much about gymnastics? Because in the lead up to London 2012, I made a concerted effort to do everything I could to give the journalists and spectators some background on the amazing stars we had that nobody else had been watching in the previous four years. Kohei Uchimura, the best male gymnast that’s ever lived. Oksana Chusovitina, who won medals before most of her competitors were born. The British men’s team that everyone had assumed wouldn’t have a chance to place in the medals. So I created their wikipedia pages, updated ones that already existed – and with others created medal tables and stats so that people could easily look back and know if someone had won 3 consecutive All-Around Golds before with just a few clicks.

It’s also why I wanted to make sure at the end of my placement last year, all four of our heroines had their own wikipedia pages. Priscilla Bright McLaren was not just ‘the wife of the Lord Provost’.

And to the men like Andy Murray and Adam van Koeverden who are joining the feminist movement and calling out the sexist commentating and reporting… THANK YOU! Welcome to the club working for gender equality!

On a side note, I do have hope. My friend’s daughter started primary school 7 years ago today(ish). I still remember when I saw her after her first day, her excitedly telling me about the school football team she was joining. And my honourary nephews? They do gymnastics.

🙂

Missing Kylie is Free on Kindle this weekend

Today is the last day kindle folks can download Missing Kylie for free. A collection of journal entries, letters and blog posts written by Mark and the rest of Kylie’s family throughout Kylie’s battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, and the year after she died and dealing with the loss of Kylie and continuing her wonderful Smiley legacy. Please do share, and read it. 🙂

A Generous Helping

Since the intent of Missing Kylie is to raise awareness for the need for safer & more effective cures for childhood cancer and to share Kylie’s faith, the Kindle version of will be free this weekend: August 12-14, 2016. Additionally, we have purchased an ad that we hope will lead to at least 20,000 downloads.

Please share, download your copy, and join us in praying that it gets into the right hands.

free

https://amzn.com/B01DY1TZ1G

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