3 Dec 2014


Yesterday was my 22nd birthday. It's hard to believe that on this day a year ago I was waking up in my room in Grenoble after what was, in hindsight, probably the weirdest night of the whole semester in France. We'd ended up in the notoriously exchange-student-populated London Pub, which until then we'd managed to avoid completely, where the barman gave us a free tarte tatin (with three candles stuck in it, to make things festive) and amongst other things I ended up trying to explain the appeal of Monty Python to a Frenchman with a bloody nose while everyone else butted in with an unhelpful impression of John Cleese in the Holy Grail. You know the one. The one you shouldn't do in front of a large group of intoxicated French people.

This year, no Frenchmen, no tarte tatin; just sweet cocktails in a wee underground bar in my favourite city with some of my nicest friends. My birthday has always been a bit inconveniently timed, just at the beginning of exam season, but thinking about it this will be the last year I'll have to contend with revision and essay deadlines for attention on my birthday. There are some benefits to entering the real world at last, I suppose.

Being 22 feels... a bit different, actually. Maybe it's because a lot seemed to happen over the past year, as opposed to in previous years where things felt more or less the same. It changes from day to day, but on the whole I do feel like I tentatively have my shit together. I don't freak out when children talk to me like I'm a grown-up anymore. I own three whole sets of nice matching underwear and I really rarely lose socks in the wash. I think I'm a reasonably intelligent, talented person who could conceivably accomplish something eventually. The older I get, the more it feels like a good thing that I am me and not someone else, and I feel like I keep getting better at being me too. Which is good. Imagine if I was getting worse at being me, just kind of slowly disintegrating and losing my corporeality... OK I don't know what I'm talking about anymore. I'm a bit hungover.

28 Nov 2014

birthday season

The amount of effort I put into wrapping presents is inversely proportional to the quality of the gift itself.
These presents are not very exciting at all, but they look pretty and that's the main thing.
 Suddenly it's nearly December and I feel like I missed November happening. 
Where did it go? What did I do all month? I can't remember. Time is a construct etc. etc.

2 Nov 2014


 The thing about me is that I'm actually a horrible show-off, and this quality manifests itself at this time of year as the need to carve needlessly elaborate designs into a large vine vegetable. The year before last I carved a lion (there's a picture here) which turned out pretty well and garnered a satisfying number of compliments, but it was conceptually a pretty simplistic endeavour. So this year I decided I was going to work on an astral theme and carve Pegasus and canis minor which, if you know your stars (I don't but google knows lots), you will recognise as autumn constellations.

Every time I carve a pumpkin I get a bit too intent and end up belatedly discovering hand wounds that I inflicted on myself in my enthusiasm. Whittling is a very soothing activity though. When I was little we used to go on camping holidays to the Scilly Isles every summer and one year we made friends with a lady staying on the campsite who would whittle corks into little animals and leave them hanging around her tent with lengths of fishing line. On the morning she left, we woke up to find a cork fish hanging from our tent. We never ran into her again and the fish got lost somewhere, but I think about that quite a lot. It's kind of appealing to me, the idea of being a mysterious whittling artist who breezes in and out of people's lives, leaving a trail of little cork creatures behind her.

This has been my one whittling-themed anecdote.

 (My flatmate is a pumpkin lantern traditionalist)

23 Oct 2014

autumn fell

At this point I feel like I have to admit that I did briefly (briefly!) consider titling this post 'Edinbrr', but then I was so disgusted with myself I had to mentally relive every embarrassing moment of my life so far in excruciating detail as a kind of self-imposed punishment.

Much like how I have an extensive collection of photos of the mountain view from my bedroom window in Grenoble, so I will no doubt end this year with a flobbity-jillion pictures of the castle. Actually this has already happened. I have pictures of the castle in morning light, evening light, low light, bright light, lit up at night...

This might be my favourite so far though, taken through a wee peephole in the condensation early on a Thursday morning.
Autumn in Edinburgh means two main things for me: the first is that I find myself getting through lip balm at an alarming rate (it honestly feels like the wind is actually blowing it off your very mouth sometimes). The second is the sudden deluge of knitwear that sweeps through the city. You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd been dropped into a Scandinavian murder mystery. Campus becomes a sea of Aran-shrouded youths in tartan scarves instagramming foliage.

It's precious really, how everyone gets so excited about leaves changing colour. That includes me, by the way: I changed my route home so I can go through the Meadows, even though it adds five minutes and a big hill onto the walk. That's how serious I am about soaking up the autumnal atmosphere. Very serious.

Last Sunday there was a rainbow over Edinburgh.
All day long it kept fading away then coming back again.
It was a little like my focus and motivation in that way.

coastal grunge

My mum moved to the coast this past year and over the summer I spent quite a lot of time there. This was mostly so I could go for long picturesque walks and pretend to be the protagonist of a low-budget independent film that will see me Come Of Age. Clifftops and stone beaches like the ones near my mum's are perfect for this because of the unavoidably symbolic nature of water. My malcontent is as vast and unfathomable as the ocean, is what it seems to say.


St. Cyrus

The St. Cyrus nature reserve is the kind of place where you can imagine yourself falling into quicksand if you stray too far from the path. The beach there goes for miles and walking along it on the kind of bleak day we did you get the slightly disorienting feeling that you might be trapped in one of those dreams where you walk and walk but don't go anywhere. Which is at least slightly better than those dreams where you're trying to run but can't lift up your feet, although I suppose the quicksand would have that effect.

(I am aware that my preoccupation with quicksand might be a bit excessive given that I have never ever encountered it in my life. I've always blamed this on the devastating scene in which Atreyu's horse drowns in The Never-Ending Story, but looking this up just now it turns out it didn't even involve any quicksand. Artax drowns in the Swamp of Sadness. So now I think I might have been confusing it with the Fire Swamp lightning sand scene in The Princess Bride. But the important thing is that, thanks to this little stroll down memory lane, I now know that there's a youtube user out there diligently collecting film scenes that involve quicksand and uploading them to the internet. Long may they continue this vital work.)

In amongst the dunes there are all these little abandoned houses. With no obvious vehicular access to them, you wonder why they were ever built in the first place, and who would choose to live there.


Months ago now I started a roll of film. It was sitting around in my camera with a just handful of exposures left for ages, until I'd totally forgotten what was on it. This week I used it up and got it developed.

As it turns out, the first outing it had was in Dunnottar Woods on one cool morning in July (the kind my mum always calls 'misty moisty'). On this particular day the woods were very quiet, very damp, very empty. Storybook woods if ever I've seen them, and as we were walking I thought of this Angela Carter story called The Erl-King, which I couldn't even remember properly; all I had was this impression of magic and greenery. But that's what this morning in Dunnottar Woods was: magic and green, and hazy like a mostly-forgotten story.

 Just like in a kind of fairytale, we stumbled upon these guys who had set up a makeshift carpentry workshop in an old shipping container. There were three of them, just pottering around, not even speaking to each other really, just making things out in the woods.

One by one, the ferns have curled up their hundred eyes and curled back into the earth. The trees threaded a cat’s cradle of half-stripped branches over me so that I felt I was in a house of nets and though the cold wind that always heralds your presence, had I but known it then, blew gentle around me, I thought that nobody was in the wood but me.

Erl-King will do you grievous harm.
~  Angela Carter The Erl-King

30 Sep 2014

café, s'il vous plait


À cette époque l’année dernière j’étais à Grenoble, qu’est quelque chose qui me semble un peu bizarre puisqu’il aurait pu se passer il y a cent ans. Aujourd’hui j’ai bu un café noir et il faisait du soleil et je réfléchissais à la France et tout qui me manque dans ce pays-là.

En effet, c’est le vin bon marché. Il y a pas beaucoup d’autre.

Mais non, ça ce n’est pas vrai parce que je souviens les montagnes quand j’allais en vélo au campus et mes amis et tout ça… j’y ai passé cinq mois mémorables et il y a des moments lorsqu’elle me manque.

Par exemple, quand je bois le café que j’ai préparé et il a le gout de flaque.

18 Sep 2014

fog report

As a wonderful welcome back to uni treat, Edinburgh has been covered in fog all week.

It never completely abates, even in the middle of the day.

There has been a constant eerie haze over everything since Sunday.

Everything is quiet and spooky all the time.

The topic of conversation for every post-sunset walk home is how much it looks like the cold open of a horror film, and who would die first. So far it turns out I strike most people as monster bait, which is just great.

Everyone's hair is twice its normal size.

I feel like I'm living in an ITV crime drama.

Castle Rock at 8:30am
"Well, maybe it'll burn off later on."
You tried, I suppose.

I'm going to be cold and frizzy forever probably.

1 Sep 2014

craft corner: how to make a thing in an uncertain number of steps

As a sequel to the beach trip that left me with a bowl of idle sea glass on my kitchen table, today I finally did something with that sea glass. And I made a handy guide so that you too can make a thing if you have a bowl of sea glass and the other things I used and nothing better to do.

Step 1: get an embroidery hoop. The bigger the better in this case I think, unless you have something against that. I don't know your life, this is a judgement call you have to make for yourself.

Step 2: get some cotton. You could use string and this would probably be a much easier craft project but I wanted it to look spider-webby so I used pale grey cotton.
You can pose it inside the embroidery hoop for a minute before you start like I did if you want but it's not mandatory. None of this is mandatory. Go outside if you want; your life is your own.

Small intermediary step that doesn't seem worth numbering: take the inside hoop out of the other slightly bigger hoop and work on that one because it's just better that way.

Step 3: proceed as though making a dreamcatcher by looping the cotton/string/entrails of your defeated enemies around the inner hoop, then going around again and looping it through the first row of loops. Continue to do this until the hoops and loops are making your head swim, or until you finish.
 Lo, a beautiful web. Onwards.

Step 4: root through your bowl of sea glass for ages trying to find what you think are the best bits, then begin trying to wind cotton around them while you say "fuck" a lot. You might think the swearing is optional but you'll quickly discover it isn't. Sea glass is very resistant to being tied up in this fashion.

Step 5: get fed up with the previous step and start experimenting with a kind of weaving technique whereby you basically stitch across the web and then trap the sea glass in between the threads. This will seem like a really great idea and you'll be very pleased with yourself for a while until you try and lift it up and all the bits fall out. Say "fuck" a bit more. Make a cup of tea and scowl at the stupid thing.

Step 6: decide to stop buggering about with all the thread and blob a lot of glue on the pieces of glass.
Step 7: forget that you were supposed to be photographing the process and just go straight on to steps 8, 9 and 10 which are: attach the previously cotton-bound bits of sea glass to the bottom curve of the hoop, thus rendering them not as pointless as you thought; replace the inner hoop in the outer hoop and trim the straggly cotton ends; attach a length of ribbon to the top for hanging purposes, if indeed you plan to hang it up and not just gaze at it questioningly, seeing it only as the symbol of an afternoon you will never get back.
NB It's very important that you do all of this without waiting for the glue to dry so that when you get to step 11 (photographing the final product) you can see the glue splodges through the glass. This really adds to the professional feel of the thing.
 There you have it, a thing in just 11(?) easy-to-follow steps. Makes a perfect gift for someone, probably.

15 Aug 2014

please don't die

This is a maidenhair fern. My grandma has one in her dining room and it has always been my favourite because it flutters like moth wings (but not creepy) when you walk past it and casts the loveliest lacy shadows. I bought this one yesterday after I had to accept that my basil plant was no more. I'm hoping against hope that my maidenhair doesn't go the same way. Although to be honest, the basil plant was doing fine until someone told me that they only last a week normally and then it seemed to pop off overnight, so maybe I was the victim of a jinx.

I love plants but I'm not very good at caring for them so, naturally, I blame the universe for their quick exits from this mortal coil.

I feel quite soft and vulnerable at the moment, like if someone had been a bit too rough with my leaves. I'm trying to get myself back to normal but it's tricky because things aren't quite normal, and I'm not sure I want them back to normal either. Edinburgh is a weird place in August - it's not really the city I'm used to and things tend to happen in ways you weren't expecting. Days run together and time passes peculiarly. It's only been two weeks since the start of the month but it feels like much longer.

I realise this makes it sound like I'm miserable right now which isn't true at all. My head's been a bit mixed up and it's something that doesn't really happen to me so I'm just trying to work my way through it. But it's the Fringe! There's an almost excessive amount of atmosphere in this city at the moment and so much to see. I've developed a kind of universal desensitisation to anything that I might have previously considered a bit odd and now simply accept the presence of a man in a pair of ladies knickers and a cloth bear head (shout out to bear man) like I accept the sun rising in the morning.

In conclusion: my fern and I are doing fine for the time being. This has been a vague and unnecessary blog post. You are welcome.