52and39/26 When The Lights Change

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Relocating is an enormous hall of mirrors.  You’re a tourist and resident, a stranger and a statistic.

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It’s four years since spaces were unexpectedly available in an Edinburgh school.  I was there at 9am the next day, in the mad last hours of term.  At noon my husband found a rental house that allowed pets.

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At the last minute, everything aligned.  Just two days before, I’d pretty much written the idea off.

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I took a photo every day for a year.  It kept me hungry for finding silver linings and stories.

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Read more about #52and39 here.  52and39

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The Birds & The Bees

There’s a lovely new, wee shop on Comiston Road in Morningside, just up from the landmark Morningside Clock.   I noticed this when I was running about one Saturday morning, ricocheting from one cash-point to another, trying to find an ATM with cash after what must’ve been a busy Friday night for taxis and local pubs.

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The stylish little oasis of Blackbird Studios‘ frontage called me over and from there, as they say, it was love.  Well, at the very least it was a continuing lusty affair with painted porcelain, stunning stationery and frankly anything with a bird on it that makes me smile and think whimsically (vultures & turkeys need not apply).

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It turns out Blackbird is run by a lady called Sheila Angus who’s moved back to Edinburgh after a long stint in Banchory where she was an art teacher at the local High School.  The very High School, in fact, that my kids would’ve gone to had we stayed in Banchory instead of moving to Edinburgh four years ago.  There’s one of those sliding doors moments again, see?  2015 has been full of them.  I’d never met Sheila before (the kids were in primary school when we left the Aberdeenshire Hood) but I was really pleased to meet her in her new setting and to have a gander among creativity while marvelling at how tiny Scotland is; city or not, most folk here are barely separated by six scones in a tea-room never mind the zoomed out, six degrees, global separation chain of connectedness.

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Anywho, Sheila invited me to her Summer Exhibition Opening the following week where I got a fab chance to wander again, take some photos and to meet another local business – Edward and Irwyn  – whose little workshop with stable door on Morningside Drive has intrigued me in passing every time I’ve driven by over the last few months.  More on them below.

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So, the lowdown on Blackbird Studios according to me is as follows;

Sheila’s business and art are a welcome addition to a Morningside shopping environment that seems to have gone a bit highly-priced-charity-shop-hysterical in recent times.  Shops like Sheila’s help the balance and are essential for keeping the street relevant to a range of shoppers.  Sheila has created and chosen a fantastic range of items and the shop’s vibe is relaxed and non pushy – a total hit with me.  I get the feeling that in a year or so Sheila will be firmly established in the Edinburgh arts and crafts network and the shop will daisy chain into lots of ideas and talent in and around the city.  It already has the feel of a hub for shoppers & artists who appreciate unpretentious, accessible originality – no mean feat in a short time-scale.

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My favourite things were;

1. A Prism of Starlings stationery

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2.  The felt & denim blue tits handmade in Fife

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3.  Sheila’s own ceramic tiles in frames (above) or with hanging wires (below) – a simple, perfectly executed idea in a fab range of colours and designs.  Instant artiness added to a home with these.  I now have two and they’ve really given character to a previously blank space.

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All of the above are super affordable, prices ranging from £6 to £20 (tiles in frames, most of the ones pictured here are £8-£10) with quality and individuality factors being super high: SCORE.

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At the higher end of the offerings there are gorgeous prints, canvases, ceramic plaques and mosaic wall art pieces that would be fantastic statements in a lucky home.  Again, quality is high and pricing is extremely reasonable.  This is indeed a boon for visitors and locals to Morningside alike.

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And so to the chocolate….

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Edward and Irwyn (E&I) make very, very, very good chocolate, i.e., the kind that you are reminded of two weeks after tasting it and the flavour is once again somehow on your tongue, rendering all other chocolate dead to you instantly.  The honeycomb chocolate we tasted on the night of the exhibition opening was made with honey from bees who live idyllically at The Secret Herb Garden where, incidentally, you can do a course to learn how to keep your own bees, should your heart desire that as a possibility.  Remember my post about that lovely place here?  It’s a wee gem that seems to be going quickly from strength to strength and has become a destination for Edinburghers with a day off or spare weekend time.

Back to chocolate for now though.  If you pass E&I during the week there’s a fair chance you’ll see the two best chum chocolatiers sitting outside in their whites having a break between batches.  They always seem to be deep in conversation and happy.  This is happy chocolate made with salt from Iceland and, sometimes, happy bee’s honey.  It’s available from various places around Edinburgh and you can also pop into E&I on a Saturday afternoon to buy some of anything they have left over from the week’s orders.

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Edward & Irwyn are on Twitter @EdwardandIrwyn and Blackbird Studios is happily tweeting from @BlackbirdScot.  That’s my Christmas present ideas totally sorted and we’ve not even finished June.  Happy Days…

52and39/25 Just Do It

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Late on Saturday afternoon a golden evening rocked up.  The kids were elsewhere so a chance to venture out was suddenly there.  We decided not to care about what we were wearing and hopped on the bus into town.

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Later, on the bus home, just two stops along Princes St, the night was still young and warm enough to walk in. It was buoyant and busy, too.

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So we jumped off again, watched and wandered.

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That’s the thing about a city; it becomes your well shod backdrop and your rechargeable entertainment.

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Little Red Tap Shoes

I have a story in Product Magazine this month.

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You can read the story here.  It’s about identity within the normal day and thoughts of a mother and child, a theme that’s a constant in my writing over the last few years.  The Mum in this story is a composite of my Mum and myself.  The daughter is a composite of myself and my daughter, as wee ones.

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When I was writing the story I was picturing the first house my parents bought in Aberdeen.  We moved up from East Kilbride in the first wave of the Scottish oil industry manning up with freshly pressed engineers for drilling out the liquid gold. Aberdeen was growing bigger suburbs every day.  Us kids in the new Barratt, Bett and Wimpey estates springing up on previous green belt knew to keep off grass that still looked more brown than green, or someone would shout at you.

Summers seemed hot and long back then, pavements and roads were fresh tarmac black with bright white highlight stones and clean grey kerbs.  When a new street was going up, dust from cement mixers travelled then rested; sometimes on the shiny dark green and burgundy leaves of newly planted rose bushes, other times on windows now proudly called double glazing. Trees were never taller than anyone’s Dad because they were all so young – the trees, that is.  It was harder to tell the Dad’s ages thanks to beards, interspersed with bald heads, suits, briefcases and randomness.

Skinny Rowans and Cherry Blossoms were sternly tethered with rubbery black straps to thick posts that would hold them upright in winter storms.  Then, suddenly, a building site we used to hurry past, turning our faces from the dust in the breeze emerged as a new thing.  A Supermarket.  We packed groceries into brown paper bags, marvelled at corridors of food, toilet rolls and milk in boxes and wondered if our accents would turn Aberdonian or American.

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I remember that time vividly and always fondly.  It’s impossible to speak for anyone else, of course, but memories and photos suggest strongly that we were all happy there, very much a family and part of a brand new community.

When I started to write the little girl for this story it was clear immediately that I couldn’t filter more recent memories of my daughter as a toddler out of the building imagery.  She and I are very alike in so many ways and memory fades and blooms depending on what the triggers are, I guess.  So, I took the story of some shoes I was given by my Mum’s new friend Mary and imagined how they’d be on my daughter’s busy feet, hanging the story off small events I remember from being my Mum’s totey, brown-eyed girl.  This is how I go down memory lane with someone who isn’t here anymore; I take my imagination and time travel a bit.  It’s good to take someone from the present on these trips, it anchors me in keeping moving forward and feeds the hope of being fondly recalled in my kid’s memories too.

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I hope you enjoy the story.  It was a treat to write it.  My incredible writing tutor – Helen Lamb – told our class a few months ago that shoe memories always hold stories.  She was right.  What pair do you remember, from when you were wee?

52and39/24 Don’t touch that dial

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The dial’s changed to summer, with intermittent cross-broadcasting bouts of cold spring and wet autumn filtering in.  It’s still Scotland, after all.

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Wet pavements and foot-ways have changed from dark, splashy marl slabs or muddy, oozing foot puzzles to muted, boney hues.  Shoes come home clean and dry. Jackets sometimes stay on the hook.  Everything’s easier.

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Petaled, leafy performers in gardens come back every year to play the same show.  It’s as if they discuss wardrobe all winter, then reveal themselves; the same but different to the same but different audience.

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52and39/23 Pursuing Coffee and Light

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On a damp, cold morning in February I drove across the ‘burbs of Edinburgh to walk the dog at Portobello.  I needed light, air and coffee in my face – nothing unusual there.

Near Cameron Toll, I thought, ‘why not…’, and spontaneously picked up charity hitchhikers.  It was a great opportunity to hear a story and throw a positive dice.

 

 
 

 

The hitch was in aid of The Rock Trust, who are working to prevent youth homelessness.

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They’re currently running a smile inducing, affordable and inspiring postcard art auction at Summerhall creative hub.

 

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52and39/22 Walk the Walk

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I’ve been wandering in Leith and reading about its heritage in flour mills, biscuit baking, ship building and wine imports.

More ominously, I’ve discovered that the current construction site at Shrubhill, just off Leith Walk, is where people (including many a witch) were publicly executed in the 17th century.

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The spot was far enough from old Edinburgh to be deemed appropriate and close enough to the capital and Leith to be considered a decent walk with built-in entertainment, if you were that way inclined. There’s more fantastic information about it here.

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