52and39/13 Special Delivery

Spring’s arriving in Edinburgh.

It’s not coming all at once but rather in a series of packages that fight through the wind and the rain before bursting open.  Little love bombs of colour and sunshine, drying things out and birthing newness that winter had put in a cupboard and told us to forget about.

Everyone seems happier, kinder and more open in the sunshine.  The summer we arrived in Edinburgh was grim.  The weather was awful and people were not for talking.  I realise I can take that less personally now.



52and39/12 Whispered and Overt

I love a quote from Sarah Jessica Parker that I’ve scribbled in one of my old notebooks.  She was talking about the character of Carrie from Sex and the City during an interview I heard back in 2008.

My mind regularly returns to those words.  They’re what I want for myself, from my friends.  They’re what I’m trying to give my friends, from me.

Something I love about city living is there’s more licence to be yourself.  Generally speaking, there’s less commentary (whispered and overt) about how you compare to others.




The beautiful images in this post are from a heart-warming collection called Domestic Series created by artist Leslie Graff.  The images I’ve used are featured with extremely kind permission from Leslie.  I’ve included info about where you can see more of Leslie’s stunning work beside the share buttons, at the end of this post.

its a treat
it’s a treat – image courtesy Leslie Graff

I love my camera. I love the photos I take, the moments captured that hold memories of things and feelings that might otherwise be forgotten.  I am an obsessive, unapologetic hoarder of photos.  I have thousands  – some ‘real’, most digital. I’ll never let them go. They are my time travel machine. They are evidence of smiles at times when my heart was heavy and records of scenes that we set and met along the way.

the picture she took
the picture she took – image courtesy Leslie Graff

All that said, I’m a believer that some moments are killed by the urge to document them.  I’ve seen people distance themselves from other people and experiences by putting a camera between their participation and the action, like localised social and emotional anesthesia.  By giving themselves a job to do they don’t have to engage in the work of connecting.  As smartphones increasingly become hardwired into our behaviour, the balance may be tipping from the moments we’re capturing to the moments we don’t know we’re losing because we’re experiencing life mainly through the viewfinder.

strawberry pie
strawberry pie – image courtesy Leslie Graff

Some moments are not meant to be captured.  Some moments are just for the heart, for the time that they happen, like smoke from a blown out match.  Beauty and fascination can and should exist in a temporary state, too.  Sometimes it’s important to just be right there and to drink something in, deciding not to focus on the possibility that you’ll forget what you’ve seen and knowing that it’s OK if you do anyway.  Life’s tapestry is rich.  If we hold onto everything we deny space for surprises and spontaneity.  Sometimes it’s more important to hold someone’s gaze and give them and you a memory than it is to point and shoot.gallery series

I had a run in the Pentlands recently that was full of things I’d liked to have photographed.  A woodpecker checking out trees.  A distressed frog, crying out and being harassed by a crow.  An elderly lady, cheering me on and smiling loudly from her car, as if I were in the Olympics and she my coach. God, I loved her. An encounter with a young spaniel pup bursting with happiness at being allowed to say hello to my big, gentle Flat-Coat guy.  A cyclist wearing a Go-Pro on his helmet passed.  I realised I’d been documented smiling at him, saying hello, running with my dog, possibly uploaded on YouTube that night along with the rest of his ride, set to music and called a memory and an experience. Archived. Shared. Witnessed. Preserved. Uploaded to the cloud, as we all will be, some day.

the sketchbook – image courtesy Leslie Graff

Later last week I walked through The Meadows and Marchmont with the dog.  Between the traffic and shouting from one builder to another I suddenly heard voices singing together, accompanied by simple piano music.  I didn’t know the song but it spilled over into the street, rising over the wall of the school yard, up to the highest tree branches and diffusing into the blue of the sky.

what she read
what she read – image courtesy Leslie Graff

I stood and took my phone out, ready to capture the scene and the sounds.  I wanted to share the moment but could tell that all I’d record would be the traffic.  So I just stood and listened.  Children, safe in their school, hopefully safe in their childhoods, so close to the heart of the city, singing.  Them – not knowing if anyone was listening. Me – accepting that I couldn’t help anyone else to listen and wondering when that had become so important anyway.

Leslie Graff’s website is here.  There are 60 pieces in the Domestic Series collection. Together, they’re a wonderland of colour and a poignant exploration of home, family and feminine self.  Leslie’s work is also featured on Saatchi Art, here.  You can find Leslie on Instagram @lesliegraff and on Twitter @lesliegraffart.  If you value a great interview, I found this excellent one while researching Leslie’s work online.     


52and39/11 What Are You Thinking?


Sometimes husband and I get a little time together, out of the house.

I have childhood and less vivid early career memories of Edinburgh.  He has memories of visiting and work before and after ‘we’ and the kids came along.

Going over memories sometimes helps you make sense of life.

Seeing things through someone else’s perspective is almost always enlightening.

So we tell stories to one another.  It’s nice to try to find the place and the words to sit down and tell them fully, while watching the world go by.

52and39/10 Well Kept Secrets

We’ve been wandering with the dog at Craighouse, in Morningside, on and off since we arrived in Edinburgh in 2011.


It’s a place with a fascinating history and a turbulent present. It reminds me of being nine, roaming fields on the outskirts of Aberdeen and finding a burned out mansion where we played Gone With The Wind.


The views over Edinburgh are the best I’ve ever seen.

You can watch fireworks at the castle from the orchard.  If you haven’t been, go soon before the current chapter flips over to another story.



Raising Expectations

I’m going to get right to it: sexism in any form helps all of its forms to thrive.

I didn’t quite get it when I was younger but now I see the connectedness between all the parts of the gender inequality jigsaw.  It’s another of those things that once seen, can’t be unseen.  I understand now that stoning a woman for driving a car in one country is validated by unequal pay in another.  It’s not a tenuous link, it’s just a simple fact – either women are worth the same as men, universally, or they are not.

We tell lucky, privileged children in the Western world in a myriad of nuanced and overt ways that girls are less strong than boys, that emotions and words are women’s work while men are out having adventures.  In so doing, we diminish the power at the front of the cart of equal rights that is trying to pull the heavy load on the trailer. We glide on the zeitgeist for feminism for the bits that suit us – Kim Kardashian’s ass as an iconic triumph of powerful femininity rather than trashy, objectifying, soft porn.  Being pleased that the UK gender pay gap is shutting in full time roles but not focusing on how women in part time roles are still paid almost 50% less than men (and that it’s THESE roles that are most accessible to many women).

We are still pinking and blueing bedrooms and babygros during pregnancies so we can give kids a sense from the get-go, from before they even speak, of which aisle in Toys R Us to be drawn to.


Parents and grandparents ask two year old girls if they like the lady’s nail polish on the magazine cover while pointing out playset train tracks in waiting rooms to two year old boys.  Then, when the kiddos land in their gender conditioned situations, one with a dolly, the other with a doctor’s set, we hear it had nothing to do with how they were brought up, women are just better nurturers and men are better workers, investigators and heroes.  Parents, educators and carers still stand in playgrounds and tell each other that boys are more violent and competitive than girls.  Then the conversation naturally travels very quickly to how girls are bitchier than boys and, the cherry on top, how those girls are hideously unsupportive of one another.  These kids are then signed up to reinforcing clubs and tribes and further sectioned off, muted and marginalised, in primary school, by parents and teachers. So we can say that’s just how they are and always have been. Marvellous.

We unhitch horsepower constantly from the front of the good carriage Equality and wonder why we have not been able to pull up FGM, rape and the selling of 8 year old brides to 50 year old men at the rear.  

Wouldn’t it be more realistic to just look at humans and expect more of everyone rather than to get comfortable leaning back into prejudiced ideas of limitations and natural ordering?

I zoom out and look at the whole, taking in incredibly strong women occasionally earning a fortune and wonderful stay at home Dads who can sense a toddler’s high temperature at 50 paces.  Women in other countries being told it’s their fault if they are raped.  Their brothers, trained from childhood to be aggressive and violent and to take what they need from females and call that success and nature.  I keep coming back to the same thing.  In the vast majority of cases, we see and reinforce what we want to see in our society and in our children’s and our own gender.  Zoom back in; we create an enormous contribution to kid’s personalities based on our expectations.  Beliefs can often masquerade as truths, if enough people perpetuate them. We create a future depending on what data we input in the present. 

For the sake of women and men we have to start hacking away at that colossal tree trunk of sexism that’s standing to greater or lesser degrees in every culture.  It’s blocking the light and using up resources in rooms that could really stand to have less shadow and more opportunity. We each need to pick up some kind of tool and basically just get busy with making positive the process of hacking away daftness, nastiness and ill conceived borders of capability.

When my kids were little I sat on too many picnic blankets listening to too many other women telling themselves and their kids that boys are rough and girls are delicate.  I sat there, as a woman who can be both rough and delicate and got lost in a fog of over attentive listening and under confidence in my right to disagree strongly.  These women were better educated than me and had the speakers up louder on their opinions. These women were older than me and had breastfed longer than my paltry 4 day attempts.  These women had children who ate bits of pepper for snacks while mine asked for biscuits.  I was outnumbered.  Perhaps more importantly, I was outclassed. That knowledge turned my volume down because that’s what another tree trunk in society has long advised we should do. I picked at daisies and guessed it must really be me who was wrong.  Then I looked at my daughter (up a tree and laughing) and wondered how no-one else had noticed her.

It’s 2015 now and occasionally I hear a parenting voice in the crowd, stretching over to my own, saying that girls are not all skinny-obsessed bitches and boys are not all thugs to be somehow carved into their own innate intellectual brilliance.  Sadly, these voices of sanity are still quite rare. When I hear them though… oh wow….  they’re all that’s good and wonderful.  Sometimes, rarely, it’ll happen four times in a week. These words are lights in the dark. Not so long ago, it used to be years between hearing them from anyone at all unless I scoured Gloria Steinem quotes.

As a mark of respect to yesterday as International Women’s Day 2015, I’m making a commitment.  I’m going to make sure I am more consistently one of those rare voices that calls out gender stereotyping for the outdated, self sabotaging nonsense that it is.  I’m going to make myself ridiculous, in some people’s eyes, by stating regularly that there’s more that makes men and women the same than that which makes them different.  I’m going to speak up in a way I couldn’t quite manage to over a decade ago on those picnic blankets because I’m long since over my tendency to feel inferior to people because they’ve had better opportunities, postcodes and luck.  I’m going to point out my daughter, up the tree.  I’m going to say that Men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus; that the difference is ultimately just a vagina and a penis.  I’m going to stop helping sexism to thrive. Simple as that.

52and39/9 Cognitive Dissonance

When we think one thing and do another, we experience cognitive dissonance.  It’s when our thoughts kinda get into a fight with our circumstances.


Same thing when we’re confronted with a
52and39situation that doesn’t chime with what we know to be right; we’re conflicted as we try to fit ideas or people together and put a frame of understanding around them all.

Edinburgh’s full of old next to new, unexpected next to predictable – an urban harmony playing host to us all as we make and sort through experiences, thoughts and behaviour.