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Free Issue 121
Bowie: A Life in Books
The Fire Next Time City of Night The Outsider White Noise Mystery Train Black Boy Billy Liar The Insult Herzog The Divided Self
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Editor at Large
Colin Montgomery takes a swift look at the year that ate its own excrement then, rather more heroically, the future
Having already perfected the doable and undoable resolution, this year Sally Fraser decides to go for gold, sorry, god
Three delightful ladies at Leith Festival Burns supper, The Dockers Club 2018
Councillor Gordon Munro, not unreasonably, claimed I was the double of that Jerry Garcia from loathsome musical combo The Grateful Dead
Oatcake beermats & rogue false teeth
In a move that could strangle all pub arguments at birth, Sandy Campbell charts the real boundaries of Leith
Marianne Wheelaghan wonders if our attention span is being eroded by digital activity or are we in fact becoming hard wired to multi-tasking?
o the Dockers Club for a bustling Burns Night supper in aid of Leith Festival, with Messrs’ Illand, Simpson and Donaldson. Mary Moriarty has prior knowledge of the kind of rabble we are so, astute as ever; she placed our table four-square at the fire exit door. The better to manhandle us through it should ‘ribald heckling’ and/or ‘a fracas’ ensue. Yours truly’s current extreme hirsute phase received beastly treatment from The Leith Middle Aged Team, in particular its self-styled leader, Dame Philip Attridge of Limehouse and Godalming, who called me Noah while casting glances at my nether regions and asking me where my burning bush was. And his brute of a henchman, Councillor Gordon Munro, who, not unreasonably, claimed I was the double of that Jerry Garcia from loathsome musical combo The Grateful Dead. Popular Dockers’ mine host and raconteur Walter Leitch – who never knowingly tells a short story when a long one will do – was in his pomp, sporting new Tartan Trews a Dickie Bow and freshly mowed hair. While the girls did us proud, juggling hot plates whilst negotiating a path through the ravenous hordes, Walter sailed across the carpet like a galleon in a force 10 gale, offering bread as if we were attending Holy Communion. Meanwhile, at the ‘big table’, in her Response from the Lassies Sally Fraser (who graces this scandalous rag with her sagacious words) was telling us that while looking for an angle for her speech she asked her daughter – aged 9 I think – if they still taught sex education at school. Her daughter replied unblinking “what’s education?” More gold was mined when, as she prepared to go the theatre, Sally’s son (aged 12?) asked her what the play was
called. Somewhat taken aback, but unable to fudge the issue, she blurted out “The Vagina Monologues,” and waited for the ‘difficult questions’, none came, just “what’s a monologue?” Who knew? Kids are growing up faster. Incidentally so funny was the bold Sally’s speech that many people didn’t notice she forgot to ask us to “raise your glasses to the gentleman in the room.” I’m not sure she did though, after the year that’s gone, I feel sure she was worried she’d add: “And pour the damn whisky over their stupid heads!” As Walter did a second tack around the room with his replenished wicker basket of bread, some wag offered, “Here Wattie if there are 5 loaves in your basket, give that hairy guy from The Leither 2 fish and he can re-enact the Sermon on the Mount.” At this point, being one of England’s hardy sons, I was pointing out to anyone who would listen that the round thinks they were eating (oatcakes, it seems) were better employed as beermats – indeed I took a set of six home to use as coasters. The Newhaven Community Choir promised a more seemly end to proceedings, but not before Councillor Munro, resplendent in pre-glasnost rabbit fur hat (not real fur, surely?) requested Glory, Glory to the Hibees. Offering a couple of verses in a robust, stentorian voice, presumably so the choir could get their heads around the complicated phrasing. The choir did not flinch, launching instead into the evocative Caller Herring: “When ye were sleepin’ on your pillows, Dream’d ye aught o’ our puir fellows, Darkling as they fac’d the billows, A’ to fill the woven willows?” Mr Pat Illand, tearful but not maudlin, sang along vigorously even as his false teeth took on a life of their own, clacking together like castanets. ■
Leith Walk, pre-1980s
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Protempore … “All of the world’s disasters could render you incapable of leaving the house at times” I
t’s Saturday the 13th of January and apart from the words I’m typing now, this page is blank. Our seldom seen but loveable editor has been in touch and has asked me, in his sweet but slightly threatening way, to write a piece about what kind of year it’s been and what we might look forward to in the not too distant future. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t really want to burden you with my thoughts about what’s been going on. I don’t know about you but I’m tired. Physically and mentally I feel shattered. And I’m sad. There seems to have been a neverending catalogue of disasters and tragedies which have been played and replayed on every 24-hour news channel as if to bludgeon us into submission and surrender ourselves to the fact that the world is going to hell in a handcart which is being dragged there by a racist megalomaniac in the White House. But something needs to be said. On 16 June this year, the veteran BBC journalist John Simpson, tweeted: It’s a year since Jo Cox was murdered: the worst year for Britain in my lifetime. We badly need a return to Jo’s concept of moderation now. When the Labour politician Jo Cox was murdered, her assailant shouted “Britain first” before killing her. In November this year, Donald Trump re-tweeted anti-Islamic tweets from the fascist Britain First group claiming that “every side of an issue” needs to be shown. In December, Nigel Farage defended Trump. The week after Jo Cox was murdered, 4 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
the UK voted to leave the European Union. Many leave voters voted to leave because they had been promised that the money which would be saved from our EU contributions would be used in part to give the NHS £350 million a week. Many commentators have stated that this was the pledge which swung the referendum. We now know that it was a lie and for the privilege of ‘taking back control’, it now appears that we will have to pay the EU upwards of £35 billion. The NHS, far from being saved, is now in real danger of being dismantled which is perhaps what the Tory Brexiteers wanted all along. The agonising irony of this is that a large number of the communities which voted to leave the EU will be the ones to suffer the most. In March 2017, a terrorist attack in Westminster left five people dead and 49 injured. In May, a suicide bomber attacked concert-goers in Manchester which left twenty-three dead and 119 injured; the youngest victim was 8 years old. In June a terrorist attack on London Bridge left eight people dead and 48 injured. Also in June, Grenfell Tower in West London burned down killing seventy-one people and leaving hundreds homeless. All of this and all of the world’s disasters could render you incapable of leaving the house at times. But I’m lucky. I have a close family; a kind and understanding partner and a daughter and two healthy, happy grandchildren. And I have my pals. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for my pals and the
I have a close family and pals, we laugh and take the weight off each other constantly – this shitty year has managed to invade even that simple solace
fact that they take me as I am; that we laugh and drink together often; and that we take the weight off each other constantly; I don’t think I could cope. But for some reason, this shitty year has managed to invade and ravage even that simple solace. Gary and Grant were my pals. They both got cancer. They were both young. Neither of them complained. They didn’t want or look for sympathy. Before they got weak, they both laughed and drank like the rest of us. They never let the disease running through their veins take precedence over our petty troubles or our gripes about life not being fair. And this shitty year has decided to deny us their company forever. In the immediate aftermath of tragedy, the easy thing to do is to retreat and begin a long, slow journey into the depths of despair and no-one could be blamed for doing so. But that’s what terrorists and fascists and tragedies and disasters and racists want you to do. To give up. To surrender. To leave the way open for them to pollute the world. We can’t hold nature back and we can’t avoid the fact that one day we’ll all have to give up our space on the planet for someone else, but if my pals’ leaving has taught me anything, it’s that life is short and precious and we should fight to make it the best that we can for everyone. I may be tired but I’m not fucking giving up. Not for anyone. My pals would never forgive me. ■ Protempore
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A Crash Course for the Ravers davidbowie.com
Gordon Munro on a book club that gives us a glimpse into the thought processes of a genius
t’s two years since David Bowie left us but his presence is still felt. Duncan Jones is channelling his loss creatively by starting his own Bowie Book Club in memory of his father: “My dad was a beast of a reader and I’ve been feeling a building sense of duty to go on the same literary marathon in tribute to him… Time allowing.” Now that’s not an easy task but at least Bowie posted his 100 favourite books on his website in 2013. One hundred. If it’s the usual book club ‘one a month’, that’s over 8 years of commitment. Time allowing indeed! The first book, Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor, has already run its allotted time. In his introduction to the book Jones wrote that; ‘Ackroyd’s sojourns into the history of Britain and its cities is one of his true loves’ the book was chosen as ‘an amuse cerveau before we get into the heavy stuff’. Daunting – especially as we are playing catch up! Cheats can read a synopsis on the David Bowie website but that would defeat the aim of the exercise, the fun of reading. When Bowie was with us he deliberately dropped reading references into interviews and I will not have been alone in reading Burroughs, Burgess, Tevis or (rereading) Orwell simply because he mentioned them. Burroughs and Tevis don’t actually make the list but there are some surprises. That ‘heavy stuff’ could allude to the likes of Earthly Powers, Transcendental Magic: It’s Doctrine and Ritual and Le Chants de Maldoror – in French? The last two books on top of a diet of cocaine, milk and red pepper found Bowie on the end of a phone line to his estranged wife Angie claiming that witches were trying to steal his semen. Mind you, if the witches had just had a peek in his fridge they’d have found the bottles of his urine he was hiding from the wizards. Not altogether surprisingly, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is another of the 100. Bowie’s sense of humour bypasses most folk, which is a pity as it is the key to understanding him. Tony Visconti tells the story of Bowie and Eno adopting Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s Derek and Clive voices in the studio while working on the Berlin trilogy – “We are the Goon squad and we’re coming to town. Beep. Beep.” Indeed we know humour was an important factor; The Beano (1950s), Raw
All booked up
There’s the story of Bowie and Eno adopting Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s Derek and Clive voices in the studio while working on the Berlin trilogy
(1980s) Viz (early 80s), Private Eye (19601980s) and Spike Milligan’s Puckoon all appear on the reading list. Levity is not a quality associated with Bowie but it was an integral part of Mr Jones. The real value of the list lies in allowing us to better understand the man. The fiction ranges from Lawrence to Isherwood, Dos Passos, Angela Carter and Sarah Waters. Novelists in translation include Giuseppe De Lampedusa, Alighieri, Bulgakov and Camus. Art, Pop and Cultural criticism are represented too, so this is going to be a rollercoaster of a book club ride. (Edinburgh makes an appearance in the guise of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.) But what kind of reader was Bowie? According to one of his best guitarists, Carlos Alomar, “He is undoubtedly well read but he’s more of an expounder of information.” He was that for all of us, constantly urging. “Check this out.” Make your mind up about this. It was through Bowie that we first heard about Lou and Iggy. He was a fellow enthusiast and all of it was used and synthesised to produce his work. A good example of this absorption and assimilation comes from a colleague of a friend, who, whilst in Mexico in 1982 invited “a bored teenager in my hotel to join me for an afternoon walk, resulting in a phone call to my hotel
room which went like this…” Caller: Is that Bernard? Me: Yes. Caller: It’s Davy Jones here, would you like to have dinner with me tonight? Me: Who? Caller: Davy Jones. Me: Er...who exactly? Caller: David Bowie. Me: Ah…er. Caller: That was my son Joe you took for a walk along the beach today and he had a fantastic time. I’d like to thank you by buying you dinner tonight. “I accepted and joined Bowie for dinner where he insisted that I sat next to him. We talked mainly about Conquistadors, Aztecs and Mayans. And both expressed a liking for Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and the film director Luis Bunuel. Davy was such a warm and charming gentleman.” This anecdote was shared with colleagues on the day of Bowie’s passing to help dilute the sadness of his loss – Joe was formerly Zowie, then Joe and, finally, Duncan. Who, in his turn, has triggered an online literary marathon though the library, and thus head, of the best arts teacher we ever had…“Lend us a book we can read up alone.” ■ ÊÊInfo: Duncan Jones is on Twitter: @ManMadeMoon Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 7
Town Planners 0 Leith United 3 Gordon Munro on a group of worthies who are fighting the good fight on Leith’s behalf
he capriciousness of the Town Planning Department in Edinburgh is a matter of public record as well as heated public debate but three recent applications in Leith show how little they took on board when Sir Terry Farrell was the Design Champion for Edinburgh. Each also highlights an ivory tower paternalistic approach that takes no account of the real world. Port of Leith Housing Association received permission to build 57 homes for rent and mid-market rent in Constitution Street opposite the casino, work commencing late 2018. The planners recommended refusal of the application and a split vote on the council’s Planning Committee agreed with the planner’s recommendation. POLHA appealed this decision and won. The planners had based their refusal on air quality standards from the monitoring station on Salamander Street. I pointed out that if air quality was an issue why were the flats at Salamander Court (opposite the monitoring station) built. The planned development is on the periphery of this zone and therefore any impact would be diluted by distance and weather and it appears that this information along with site specific data and measures such as the PassivHaus standards of the development were sufficient to win the appeal – Planners 0 Leith 1. The second application was the extension of the Malt and Hops, adding a floating pontoon on the Shore opposite the premises. This is one of Leith’s best pubs but the proposal would have impaired one of the key Water of Leith views on a stretch that is a real draw for tourists and photographers. Amazingly the planners recommended approval despite objections from the Friends of Water of Leith, the local community Council and local councillors. Part of the animus for some of the objectors was the fear that the entire waterway would soon be awash with boats of commerce, obscuring the beauty of this part of Leith. When it went to committee they rejected the planner’s recommendations, accepting the key points as well as the advice of transport 8 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
The proposed developement for ‘Waterfront Plaza’
A key point made in the Leith Blueprint produced by Leith Creative was the need to: “Put the people at the heart of all planning decisions”
officers citing concerns about this use creating hazards for the nearby road. The applicant appealed and the appeal was rejected. The water will remain open space for the foreseeable future assisting the aims of those working to make Leith a tourist attraction in its own right – Planners 0 Leith 2. The third application was sought by Cala Homes, who wished to build a mix of housing and small-scale commercial development on the vacant site opposite Ocean Terminal. (Cala like Leith, their Albert Dock Development sold very quickly convincing them to buy the old Post Office site on Brunswick Road, also sold out.) The planners objected saying there were ‘insufficient commercial units and office spaces’. Arrant nonsense based on the out of date Local Development Plan. It also did not reflect reality, the flats at Salamander Court have commercial units at ground level, which have had a variety of intermittent uses (or lain empty) since being built. As for office space, there is a whole floor of the Sir Terry Farrell designed Ocean Point building that has not been let since it opened 16 years ago. There. Is. No. Demand. In my presentation to committee I brought up the lack of demand for the two key points in the planners case for rejection. I also referred to the council’s policy on small artisanal workspace – a key point in the Leith Blueprint produced by Leith Creative. Here was a real opportunity to have artisans working and selling their wares whilst tempting some of the 350,000 visitors to Royal Yacht Britannia to linger longer in Leith. The other point made to committee was this space has been derelict for
some time and other opportunities present themselves for development here; a bespoke home for Leith Sea Cadets, Victoria Dock berthing the SS Explorer, making it a counter point attraction to the royal yacht? On the day the case against the planners was put by yours truly and Adam McVey; Keith Anderson on behalf of POLHA and Leith Chamber of Commerce; Leith Harbour and Newhaven Community Council; Ocean Terminal pointed out that a different type of commercial space was needed here and a local resident, who originally objected, spoke in favour saying the developer had worked extensively with local residents to change the design to one they could “live with.” The committee took these into account and unanimously supported rejecting the planner’s recommendations. Approving the plan to build 388 homes – including 97 affordable by POLHA – along with 29 commercial units suitable for a variety of small businesses – Planners 0 Leith 3. These results, away from home in the City Chambers, will hopefully result in a better understanding of Leith by the planning department. One of the key points made in that Leith Blueprint was the need to “Put the people at the heart of all planning decisions.” Unlike the patrician approach (which saw Grampian and Cairngorm high rise flats built and demolished within 35 years.) One participant suggested we “…find ways and places to connect and live well together not just beside each other.“ Any planner worth their qualifications would take that remark on board and look at Leith holistically. We will, all of us, take it to extra time to get the result we want for Leith. ■
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Think you have a story? Get in touch with The Editor and let the world know ... I ’ m M o n i c a a n d I ’ m a p ro f e s s i o n a l , i n d e p e n d e n t c e l e b r a n t , w o r k i n g i n t h e E d i n b u r g h a re a , b u t a v a i l a b l e f o r c e re m o n i e s a l l o v e r S c o t l a n d .
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Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 9
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A rational adjustment to an insane world A look back at the year that escaped and ate its own excrement and forward to one that…well, Colin Montgomery has ideas
at the end of the World Snooker Championship purporting to, “laugh at the lighter side of the baize” whilst actually being a series of snapshots of snooker players gurning, rubbing dust off their waistcoats, or scratching their arse etc. Oh how I wish they would intersplice it with footage of Ronnie O’Sullivan smashing fuck out of his dressing room, high on life. So here are my ‘sideways’ predictions for the fledgling year that is 2018. Coz, you gotta laugh, eh?
any years ago, I developed a penchant for buying highbrow texts from charity bookshops. It was the sort of studied cosmopolitanism that in a few years from now, when the Brexit revolution is complete, will see me locked into a cage made from sticks of Blackpool rock, forced to fellate a statue of Enoch Powell and subjected to a 34/7 – yes, 34/7 for we shall recalibrate time too – aural assault of Chas & Dave. Or maybe I’ll escape with a light cockpunching performed by ex-SAS men – who can recite Rule Britannia backwards - as the Good Ship Blighty slips its moribund moorings and sets sail for a glorious new beginning east of Java. But for now, let’s return to the books. I recall one day chancing upon a copy of famous/infamous Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing’s seminal 1960s text, The Divided Self. Billed as ‘an existential study in sanity and madness’, the book appealed to my appalling intellectual snobbery at that time (I was fresh out of college and at war with everything ‘ordinary’, I purchased a copy of Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell pretending to read it over a lunchtime pint in The Jolly Judge…what a little tosser I was). Anyway, I never really got a handle on The Divided Self apart from glimpsing some of the more challenging aspects of RD’s revolutionary practices. By challenging, I mean one of his charges was encouraged to strip butt naked in a room and live in her own shit as some twisted attempt to reconnect with her inner self. Some may quibble on the details, but the excrement part is correct and it provides the symbolism I need to give this tirade some shape. I say shape but really it’s more of an amorphous attack on the increasingly bleak downward spiral that was 2017. Smothering yourself in your own dung and howling at the moon in a locked room sums it up. So can we expect similarly perfumed delights in 2018? Well, I’m no Nostradamus, but as an old friend of mine used to say every Hogmanay,
Trump will launch furious Twitter attack on his own hair In a surprise move, accidental President, Donald Trump shall launch a stinging social media attack on his own unruly hair. Describing it as a ‘fake do’ and ‘possibly terrorist in nature’, he will proceed to excommunicate it from his own fevered bonce, then order a marine expedition to reconquer it, strand by strand. This may result in collateral damage; hopefully his own demise. Seminal text or pretentious claptrap? We are divided
The trouble is, there’s a whole wheat field of this shit and unlike our brittle piñata of a Prime Minister, I have no desire to run through it
contrary to the Panglossian hymn to progress so beloved of Yazz and her ‘Plastic Population’, “the only way is usually down.” Or perhaps even more frustratingly, the only way is sideways. We spriff and spraff and mumble and grumble but actual, epochal progress is never really a violent earthquake (if you discount two global conflagrations in the 20th century). Any real meaningful and lasting human progress takes time – so imperceptible that it’s barely noticeable until one day you wake up and realise that neo-fascist orcs like Trump (the political wing of Richard Spencer), blithering nationalist blimps like Farage and all those theocratic Islamo-fascists are like mere chaff in the wind. Trouble is, we are nowhere near chaff-stage yet, there’s a whole wheat field of this shit and unlike our brittle piñata of a Prime Minister, I have no desire to run through it. Sideways manoeuvres then…a suitably clunky segue to a ‘sideways’ look at the year ahead. ‘Sideways looks’ here references those crap montages
Brexit will be downgraded to become a theme park near Lincoln
As even the most ardent of British nationalists realises that Brexit has gone from ‘moment of glorious national rebirth’ to being hosed down repeatedly with liquid clown shit whilst naked in a cage, there will be a recalibration of our Brexit ambitions. It will be confined to a theme park experience near Lincoln featuring attractions such as turnip throwing, monkey hanging and lattehating.
Scotland will attend Russia 2018 as an understudy for England After the England squad call off with broken egos, the plucky Scots will take football’s global stage in their stead. We’ll still crash out at the group stage, but at least we’ll give English fans a true lesson in false hope – none of this “getting to the quarters finals and losing to Croatia” stuff. We’ll smash the Belgians, draw with Tunisia and lose horribly to Panama (with Darien, we have form in that area). ■
Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 11
Waiting for a dial up connection when you have Wi-Fi Sally Fraser has a halfresolution-half-justthought going on, it’s linked to connectivity and courage
nd so, another year rolls round. By the time this post reaches you it will be late January, nothing but a few chocolate brazils and the cheese no one likes with the fruity bits in left of Christmas, and the first New Year’s resolutions already broken. The first cigarette already smoked, the first too much already drunk on a school night, the first ‘more pulses and whole grains’ not eaten. But for now, it is early January and I am by the impressively big tree in the Persevere, chardonnay in hand, reflecting on the year gone by and the year to come. 2017 was the year that I perfected, if I may say so, the art of the do-able resolution. 2016, some readers may recall, was the year of resolving to get insoles and see a psychotherapist, and we all saw that worked out very well indeed. But it was quite gruelling and painful at times, on the calves, the soles, and the soul. January 2017 saw some all together less challenging goals, I was to get a decent mattress, a decent pillow, and, crucially, I was only ever going to wear a properly fitting bra. One way or another, the year was to be all about having the right support in place. And, goodness me, it hasn’t half paid off. I have a new house, a new job and I am feeling particularly fond of my husband and children. So I am not really setting any resolutions this year, apart from one more-of-an-idea-than-aresolution, which is… To stay connected. In anyway shape or form. To God. To other people. Which is probably the same think one way or another. And to do whatever it takes to be able to stay connected. Because I think we need to acknowledge this is tricky, and be gentle with ourselves, do whatever we need to do, what works for us. If a glass of wine in the bath will help you forget the stress of work and sit and chat to your husband, if a cigarette in the stairwell will buy you the patience to sit and do an hour’s jigsaw puzzles with your toddlers. Wandering round the shops shopping for nothing in particular for half an hour might make you energised 12 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
Representation of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, poet and mystic, born 30 September 1207 died 17 December 1273
enough to face a tricky board meeting. Headspace and ‘me time’ make for better connections in the long run. It’s tricky too to fight the interference. The anxieties, the resentments, the bombardment of information, the need to mentally plan next week’s pack lunches, any programme involving Lord Sugar or anyone Being Voted Out. All these things form a huge fuzz, a white noise, which clouds the receptors, dulls the synapses, makes all those glorious connections more elusive. Maybe they needn’t be elusive. It’s there, all there for the taking whenever we want it. I think about this every time someone tells me they don’t know how to pray. It feels like they think they need to say the right words, sit in the right position, get all their spiritual ducks in a row before some cosmic channel will open up. They still think they need to wait for a dial-up connection. They don’t realise there is wi-fi. We have wi-fi in all our relationships, and I would like to get into some
The first cigarette already smoked, the first too much already drunk on a school night, the first ‘more pulses and whole grains’ not eaten
metaphors about routers and so on here but I lack the technical knowledge so I would be out of my depth. But our lives are full of people just waiting for us to let the love between us and them through, not to create or give or receive it, just allow it to exist in what exists already and maybe notice it from time to time. Or even cherish it. Not in high romance or grand gestures but over sandwiches and jigsaws, or at the bus stop. It’s these mundane intimacies that can prove to be painful though, will have us running from ourselves, retreating into safer places of isolation, of control. So my only other half-resolution-halfjust-thought, which might be linked to the connectivity thing, is to have courage. Courage – fittingly enough – in the etymological sense of it. Because I found this year that the word courage actually means to stay in heart. I am not even going to say more than that; I am just floating it out there. Stay in heart. That’s what it means to be courageous. I was thinking about this in the middle of the night during the festive season; when thoughts of leading Christingles services at my church were having me wake up in cold sweats thinking about small children and pointy cocktail sticks and naked flames. I found myself thinking about some lines from a Rumi poem, but I couldn’t remember the exact words. I knew it was something about opening hearts though and that I liked that I knew that was what I needed. As I headed downstairs for a drink of water, I found the Rumi book of poems, my husband’s current bathroom reading, was open on the exact page of the verse I was thinking of. It’s these words that I am taking as my guide for 2018: Stop the words now. Open the window in the centre of your chest and let the spirits fly in and out. n
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Opening Hours: Monday 8:30am to 8pm; TuesdayFriday 8:30am To 5:30pm; Saturday 9am To 3pm Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 13
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14 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
DeidreBrock MP for Edinburgh North and Leith
Changing things by changing the way we look T
The Scottish Commission on Social Security will examine regulations before they come into force and future Scottish Governments will be held to account, no matter their political hue
he Welfare State is one of the best ideas of the 20th century, giving people the chance to start again when their lives are damaged. Some people have had to depend on it for extended periods of time and some have had the safety net catch them so they could climb back up again. It’s been under attack for decades now, a toxic narrative of “scroungers and layabouts” leading to a jaundiced public view of benefits recipients as being somehow undeserving. That started politicians off down the path of cuts and limits. The rhetoric was that there are deserving people and undeserving people – remember Labour under Tony Blair lauding “hard-working families” while they started the benefits cuts? The Blair/Brown government introduced the Bedroom Tax in 2003 with Edinburgh as one of the guineapigs – the ‘Pathfinder’ areas – and the same attitude continued through the Cameron and May governments. Now we have benefits caps, cuts to disability benefits, women being told they’ll have to prove they were raped to get child tax credits, and work capability assessments that class people fit for work who are clearly not fit at all. I’ve seen people struggling with a terminal illness harassed to go to return to work interviews; older people who can barely walk being isolated further as they lose mobility vehicles; those suffering from mental illness sanctioned and left in even greater stress. People are being harassed by an incoherent, inflexible, utterly heartless system that has lost all sense of what it’s there for. Record numbers of negative decisions on benefits are being overturned at appeal – in large part because DWP staff have targets for refusal of benefits. Imagine that: millionaire Ministers who will never want a day in their lives setting targets for civil servants to refuse a few pounds to the most vulnerable members of society. The horror and the sheer inhumanity of that is unbelievably cruel. They can’t even plead ignorance to the suffering these policies create, as the evidence is overwhelming. We’ve had the UN’s scathing report last year, showing the UK is in violation of disability rights, astonishingly ignored by the government. We have alarming research showing attempted suicides amongst people claiming out-of-work disability
Scottish Government’s Social Security minister Jeane Freeman
benefits doubling from 2007 to 2014. This shocking state of affairs should spur any government into action. Yet there is no sign, no sign at all, of any change coming from the politicians in control in London. They still talk about “skivers versus strivers” and the movement is still towards cutting the tiny amount of support that people can access. They talk about ‘teaching’ job seekers through sanctions and forcing people to food banks. They talk a great deal about benefits fraud – which amounts to a tiny fraction of the benefits bill – and they turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the tax fraud, the offshore accounts and the tax dodging that rips billions of pounds away from the public coffers. The fate of people who need a little bit of help from government is less certain now than it has been since the creation of the welfare state. Things need to change, attitudes need to change, politicians need to change. That’s why I welcome the change of tack being taken in Scotland as a new system is developed for delivering those benefits that are finally being devolved. The new system will only account for around 15% of the total benefits bills in Scotland - but they will be delivered with human rights and human decency in mind.
It takes a bit of time to develop a new system and make sure we get it right – they haven’t exactly got a decent model to base it on – but the legislation is making its way through Holyrood now and it’s good to see how it’s taking shape. In particular, the creation of the Scottish Commission on Social Security is a really welcome move. It will be there to independently scrutinise the system, hold politicians to account and make sure that dignity, fairness and respect are at the heart of policies in practice, rather than just lofty promises. It will examine regulations before they come into force to check they are realising rights, not putting blocks in the way. The commission will make sure any future Scottish Government will be held to account too, no matter what their political hue. It will look at what’s being proposed, see if it fits the principles on which the system is based, and prevent any ideologically-driven changes that go against the grain from pressing ahead with impunity. The new system may still be limited in powers, but not in its ambition to do things better. It’s an opportunity to change things by changing the way we look at them - we must grab it with both hands. ■ ÊÊTwitter: @DeidreBrock Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 15
SandyCampbell On the Loose
Whither Leith? – The I
Was Edinburgh always destined to expand to the sea? Or could Leith have become the dominant burgh, with Edinburgh its oft forgotten suburb?
n 1920, 90% of Leithers voted against amalgamation with Edinburgh in a Brexit style plebiscite; our lofty neighbours however, voted overwhelmingly in favour. At this time the border was clear: the Forth to our north - from Wardie to the old Leith Poorhouse, later the Eastern General Hospital; inland from Granton harbour to Golden Acre, left along Ferry Road then a sharp right up Newhaven Road to the end of Pilrig Street, cutting through the old Boundary Bar and the tenements on Albert Street to reach Easter Road stadium, (firmly establishing Hibs in Leith, other than a pocket of away supporters in the western corner of the new enlarged stadium); then finally in a straight line from Lochend Loch through the fields of Lochend Farm back to the sea. Back in 1920 the border made sense. From Wardie to Seafield, and from the Shore to Pilrig Church, we in Leith had a level of independence a century ago to rival present day Holyrood. Our own independent police force, our own water, schools and health boards, our own theatre and town hall, numerous cinemas and dance halls, our own Leith MP – just for us. And, unlike today, our own trams, on a different gauge of course from our Edinburgh neighbours. But since ‘incorporation’ our Edinburgh masters have made merry with our borders on many an occasion the most recent being the City of Edinburgh Council’s Locality Plans. There are four such ‘localities’ in the world of Edinburgh local governance. As has so often been the case in these frequent redrawing of the lines, Leith is partitioned: Leith Academy in one locality and Trinity Academy in another – from Ocean Terminal to Niddrie, most of us now find ourselves in the North East Edinburgh Locality Partnership. Just over a decade ago the parliamentary boundary commission attempted to rename our parliamentary constituency similarly, as ‘North East Edinburgh’, only to encounter a tsunami of protest. Rarely do these bureaucrats back down, but they did when faced with Leithers United. Then in 2009 Forth Ports were forced to reverse their plans to rename Leith Docks ‘Edinburgh Harbour’. Dinnae mess! Of course borders only matter when there is territory that needs separating; when who or what is inside or outside needs defining. Going back some centuries to the time of the Union (the one between Scotland and England)
16 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
there was no need for a Leith-Edinburgh border. There was clear countryside in between. By today’s standards, Leith was little more than a village and Edinburgh little more than a single street. In the 19th century Great Junction Street was built as a bypass, a way of avoiding the busy bustle of Leith to reach the docks. When Scotland’s main port in the middle ages, Berwick, finally fell to the English in 1482, Leith became the principal port for the nation. The powerhouse of the kingdom was in the east. Trade, other than to England, faced the Baltic, the Hanseatic League of
northern Germany, Flanders, etc. From a Leith perspective, the future was full of promise. A few decades after Berwick’s fall and Leith’s ascendancy, Mary Queen of Scots’ mother moved her Royal Court to Leith on the site of present day Parliament Street by the Shore. Some decades later, if the Protestant rebellion had been defeated and the Siege of Leith had not forced our French allies to flee from the Protestant’s English allies, Leith could have remained Scotland’s capital in a Catholic independent Scotland. A century later, Cromwell also understood
e Border Question
the importance of Leith as the route to subduing Edinburgh. The Citadel, the Cromwell streets nearby, indeed the very creation of Leith Walk are all testament to this rather controversial Leith champion from the other side of the religious divide. So was the incorporation of Leith into Edinburgh inevitable? Was Edinburgh always destined to expand to the sea? Or could Leith have become the dominant burgh, with Edinburgh its oft forgotten suburb? What we take for granted today might not have always been thus, if historical power politics had taken some
Map of the border of Leith circa 1919
different paths. Indulge me. Take the very existence of our own dear country, Scotland. If the Normans hadn’t subdued Yorkshire and Northumbria by brutal ethnic cleansing in the 11th century, to establish a permanent border from the Tweed to the Solway sands “to mark where England’s province stands”, then perhaps a different country could have emerged. With its southern border, the Humber and the Mersey, and its northern border the Forth and Clyde. No such country as Scotland; instead replaced by some kind of Middle-land with the Pictish north
emerging as a Highland independent kingdom. The Cumbrian Tory MP, Rory Stewart, made a whole fantastical series of TV programmes on this thesis just a few years back. But to return to Leith: four years after Berwick fell, Columbus ‘sailed the ocean blue’. The Portuguese, the Spanish and then the English proceeded to make themselves rich from the sale of human beings and the wealth they created for their ‘owners’. Leith’s fate was sealed. After the Union, and the access this gave us to England’s trade routes, we in Scotland, and particularly Glasgow, boomed. Maybe, if the slave trade hadn’t happened, and commerce hadn’t moved to our western shores, Glasgow might have remained as important to the Scottish economy as Wick. Maybe if the Reformation hadn’t switched Scotland’s treaty allegiances from France to England, and Leith’s very brief taste as Scotland’s capital had endured, it all could have been so very different. It was not to be. Edinburgh started to pen Leith in, gobbling up the coastal villages of Cramond, Granton and Portobello on either side. We did our own land grab too; taking in Newhaven and Trinity, but it was too little too late. In my adolescence I remember my dad joking that they’d renamed Leith - as EH6 – which actually reflected the 1920 boundary remarkable faithfully. Leith had become a postal number. In fact a post office worker once told me that if you put ‘Leith’ instead of ‘Edinburgh’ when addressing an envelope, even with the right postcode, it actually delays delivery! So what is Leith today? Urban boundaries, unlike national ones, change inevitably with the growth in population and housing. Yet the intriguing thing is how enduring the Leith identity of place is. In fact in the last couple of decades it seems to have become stronger; a successful ‘brand’ even. Yet I doubt that many of today’s residents of Wardie and Golden Acre know that they are a historical part of Leith. On the other hand I suspect that many think that Leith begins at Elm Row. Perhaps the border exists at a subconscious level now. I intend to find out. Over the next issues I will be talking to people from many parts of Leith. Those who were born here and those who’ve made Leith their home – and asking them: What makes Leith different? And what does it mean to be a Leither? ■ Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 17
From Georgian England to Italian Soho Coffee-table books don’t come more caffeinated than this; Kennedy Wilson makes a cup of java and prepares to salivate
he origins of coffee can be traced back to 15th century Arabia, the Yemen to be precise. The concept of the coffee shop spread across the Near and Middle East – from Turkey to Syria. These were places where men (almost exclusively) could meet, chat, play board games and while away the time. The tradition continued into the 17th century when European coffeehouses were perceived as places where profound philosophising could take place. George the Third’s massive taxes on tea, made coffee the favourite hot beverage in the United States while Dutch colonials in Sumatra started plantations and later began exporting the java bean. Ever since, the popularity of coffee has waxed and waned. By the middle of the 20th century, Italian owned coffee bars in the UK, populated by teenagers, provided a cheap place to socialise over cups of ‘frothy coffee’. Then in 1971, a little indie coffee shop in Seattle started Starbuckising the world. Now there seems to be a coffee shop on every street corner. The good barista became a high street hero. And the Nespresso machine with its ‘grand cru’ pods brought the coffee bar experience into the domestic kitchen. Thus skinny lattes and flat whites have become part of the everyday lexicon. In the last ten years ‘artisanal’ coffee with its flavours and exotic paraphernalia has been co-opted into the realm of Generation Hipster. Making the bearded, extravagantly mustachioed, tattooed barista an absurdly reliable stereotype. A new book Coffee Style by Horst A Friedrichs (pictures) and Nora Manthey (words) takes a journey through what has become known as ‘the third global wave of coffee’. Making the perfect cup of coffee has been deemed a craft. With new brewing techniques combined with vintage coffee machines and steam-punk glass brew cones it’s all a world away from Nescafe instant and the office Cona coffee machine, which dispensed hours old back liquorice. Different varietals of sustainable coffee bean are compared like vintage fine wine. Coffee roasteries 18 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
now have as much cachet as famous vineyards (really). Café Ritual in San Francisco is famed for a coffee cocktail – the Cherry Bomb – consisting of cold-brew concentrate and tonic water topped with a maraschino cherry. Yes, it does sound disgusting. From the Georgian coffee shop to the beatnik hangout, coffee has a chameleon-like ability to reinvent itself with surprising regularity. America, it has been suggested, was colonised by cowboys high on caffeine, drunk strong and black. President Thomas Jefferson once stated that: “Coffee was the favourite drink of the civilised world.” A sentiment echoed in the famous T-shirt slogan of the time ‘No Coffee No Workee’. For much of the 20th century being invited back after date ‘for a coffee’ was a sign that the night was going well. In his book on the swinging 60s Ready, Steady, Go, Shawn Levy writes: ‘In the early 1950s Soho had become the centre of a trend that would serve as an important catalyst to the lifestyle changes of the following decade – the trend for Italian-
Café Ritual in San Francisco is famed for a coffee cocktail consisting of cold brew concentrate, tonic water and a maraschino cherry. Sounds rather, ahem, intriguing style coffee bars. In 1953, Frith Street became home to the first Gaggia espresso machine imported into England, and the hot little cups of steamed coffee became, along with a taste for Italian food and fashion, a staple of au courant city life’. Part of the attraction is that coffee’s got stuff in it that gives you a buzz. Scientific studies have long looked into the effects of caffeine in the system – the antioxidant results are good for you, but too much can cause headaches and even palpitations. There is also (oh the horror!) said to be a significant coffee crisis looming. Indeed it has been calculated that due to climate change, coffee bean production in Latin America could slump by as much as 88% by 2050 so drink up while you still can. ■ ÊÊInfo: Coffee Style: Horst A. Friedrichs & Nora Manthey (Prestel Publishing £24.99)
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Are We Losing The Plot? Marianne Wheelaghan asks if our attention span is being eroded by digital activity or are we becoming hard wired to multi-tasking?
ccording to recent statistics, Facebook has 2.07 billion monthly active users, Twitter 330 million, Instagram 800 million and You Tube has 1,325,000,000. Meanwhile, in 2013 more than 1.2 billion people were playing computer games, of those, more than 700 million were online games. Then there’s all the time (and money) we spend online shopping and don’t forget the 2.5 million emails that we sent every second, or the 5000 online adverts that flash across our screens daily. That’s a heck of a lot of screen time. Does it matter? Well, according to a bunch of headline grabbing articles, the answer is yes: our daily digital activity is reducing our attention span. Ten years ago the average attention span was 12 seconds; today it is a mere eight seconds. In other words, one whole second less than a goldfish. Are we losing the plot? Best selling author Robert Harris thinks so. He fears readers lack the attention span to read novels, turning to online streaming and box sets instead. In a recent radio interview, he said, “A box set takes 10 or 12 hours to view, and that’s the same length of time it takes to read a novel … these series are pretty sophisticated, a lot of them are, it seems to me, in many ways, our modern novel and they’re more central to our culture.” But is Mr. Harris right? Is the novel doomed? Not necessarily. It turns
out that there’s more to our attention span than meets the goldfish bowl. Dr. Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University, suggests that the concept of an “average attention span” which increases or decreases is misguided. “Attention span is very much task-dependent and how much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is.” She and other scientists like her suggest that to process the myriad of information digitally delivered to us on a daily basis, we’ve become very discerning about what we pay heed to, out of necessity, we have learned to quickly distinguish between information that is of importance to us and that which is not. We have become, in fact, super multi-taskers. Rather than having a reduced attention span we are instead allocating our attention differently. Re-wiring our brain, if you like, to cope. Mr. Harris’s fears seem unfounded, especially in the light of some of the latest figures released by the Publishers Association. In 2015 the UK publishing industry was in rude good health with total sales of book and journal publishing up to £4.4bn. The figures also revealed for the first time since the invention of the ebook; overall physical book sales increased while digital sales decreased. The novel is alive and kicking and very much a central part of our culture. Let’s face it; there is no reason why we can’t enjoy both watching a box set and reading a novel, though not necessarily at the same time. But, we do well not to be complacent. One thing we know for sure is that our attention is finite. If not replenished regularly, it runs out. The longer we look at a screen, sifting and sorting through
In the future the revolution will be televised youtubed/tweeted
Matt Richtel, the American writer, and journalist at The New York Times says we need to think of technology in the same way as we consider food
the myriad of digital information bombarding us daily, the more our attention is depleted, making the need to switch off all the more important. Unless we take the time to replenish our depleted attention – by sleeping or going for relaxing walks in woods, for example – the simplest of tasks, such as reading a book, will become more and more challenging. But what’s so difficult about switching off a screen? Turns out to be an awful lot. Advances in research suggest screen time can be addictive. The longer we stay plugged in, the harder it is to turn away. Can anything be done? We don’t know yet but let’s hope so – time and more research will tell. Meanwhile, Matt Richtel, the American writer, and journalist at The New York Times says we need to think of technology in the same way as we consider food: “Just as food nourishes us, and we need it for life, so too — in the 21st century and the modern age — we need technology. You cannot survive without the communication tools; the productivity tools are essential,” he says. “And yet, food has pros and cons to it. We know that some food is Twinkies and some food is Brussels sprouts (by the way, a Twinkie is a golden sponge cake with a creamy filling). And we know that if we overeat, it causes problems. Similarly, after 20 years of glorifying technology as if all computers were good and all use of it was good, science is beginning to embrace the idea that some technology is Twinkies and some technology is Brussels sprouts.” Are we losing the plot? No. Not as long as we can learn to distinguish between a tiny green cabbage and a golden sponge cake with a creamy filling. And really, how hard can that be? ■ Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 21
TheNoRecipe Man Tom Wheeler
The editor feels sure his personal shopper has forgotten something
The Leither’s “How Do You Shop?” Quiz
he internet truly is a remarkable thing. Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s vision, we can talk face-to-face across thousands of miles, pay a virtual visit to almost any spot on Earth – and best of all, we can click a Facebook link and answer three banal lifestyle questions, whereupon an algorithm written by a three-year-old will tell us which Game of Thrones character we are. Unfortunately, the web budget here at Leither Towers doesn’t quite stretch to employing algorithm-writing toddlers, while plans for a wifi-enabled print edition remain on indefinite hiatus. But we’re not about to let that stop us from pigeonholing the world’s population into a handful of arbitrary categories. So please join us as we strip the “ter” out of “interactivity”, embrace the very latest 1980s survey technology and ask: just what kind of food shopper are you?
Please join us as we strip the “ter” out of “interactivity”, embrace the very latest 1980s survey technology and ask: just what kind of food shopper are you?
Question 1: After polishing off the last out-of-date cereal bar from the back of the cupboard, you have officially run out of usable food, so it’s time for a Big Shop. How do you approach it? A: Meticulously plan all your meals for the next week, order the ingredients online, then sit back and relax in the blissful knowledge that a potentially irritating household task has been completed with the minimum of fuss and waste. B: March to the shops in the unshakeable belief that you’ll remember everything you need when you get there, despite decades of evidence to the contrary. Returning home laden with supplies, you realise you’ve forgotten the milk, eggs, bread, pasta and vegetables. Too weary to contemplate leaving the house again, you improvise a dinner of chicken in beef sauce, washed down with black tea.
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C: Make a quick list of essentials so you don’t forget, spend a happy afternoon scouring the shelves for bargains and inventing delicious meals on the hoof, then delight your nearest and dearest with an array of glorious, original and economical dishes. Question 2: You’re hosting a dinner party and have decided to make your signature dish: Beef Wellington. But the whole beef fillet you require costs a million billion pounds, while sirloin is on special offer for £2.50. What do you do? A: You won’t be fooled by the apparent bargain: if the recipe stipulates fillet, then fillet it must be. The dinner party is a triumph, tempered only by a vague sense of guilt at having to sell the twins to pay for it. B: You buy the sirloin. Carefully trimmed and lovingly cooked, the beef is as tender as the finest fillet, and would have been the centrepiece of an unbeatable Wellington, if only you’d remembered to buy pastry. The twins begin to eat each other. C: You buy the sirloin – and the pastry – and the result is magnificent. Your delighted friends carry you around the room as if you’d scored the winner in the Cup final while the twins sleep soundly in their beds. Question 3: Who is your ultimate food hero? A: Delia. There is only Delia. B: Keith Floyd, if only he’d allowed himself to have a couple of drinks and let his hair down a bit. C: A cross between Heston Blumenthal, David Dickinson and the Great Soprendo.
How did you do?
Mostly As: Congratulations – you are a true professional among shoppers.
Prudent, logical and methodical, you know exactly what you need and the most efficient way to get it. You are also insufferably smug, devoid of joy and spontaneity, and destined to die alone and unloved. Mostly Bs: Commiserations – you are Tom Wheeler. You see no need to make a single trip to the shops when twelve will do, and are doomed to spend your days repeating the same basic mistakes over and over again. Your staple diet is based on a bizarre, unbalanced hotchpotch of mutually unsuited ingredients, and you’ve just run out of bog roll again. Mstly Cs: Wow! You are the ultimate creative shopper. You’re organised enough to remember the essentials, but have the imagination to work around problems, pick up bargains and find exciting new flavour combinations. What a pity you don’t actually exist. Mostly Ds: You clearly haven’t read the questionnaire properly. Go back and start again. Mostly Es: You’re unlikely to need any food for a while. Your shopping basket contains only chewing gum and bottled water, and you’re currently hugging a stranger in the queue for the self-service checkout while tapping one foot uncontrollably. So what does all this tell us? About as much as an online Game of Thrones questionnaire, in all honesty – except to say that no amount of forgotten ingredients or ill-conceived meals could convince me to become a forensic menuplanner. Take the improvisation out of shopping and you take it out of cooking as well – which turns that from one of life’s genuine pleasures into a grim recurring task on a par with hoovering. Like anyone else, I’d love to be a C; but failing that, I’d much rather be a B than an A. n ÊÊTwitter: @norecipeman
“Many people are only two pay cheques away from the streets” David Morrison
Jai Adami felt a personal need to understand homelessness better and help those in dire situations regardless of how they got there
s the man in this photograph out shopping? Is he taking a walk? Or is he homeless? The reality is that we don’t know for sure. On Saturday 9th December, with only a borrowed sleeping bag from my friend Sharon and an orange plastic survival bag provided by the organisers, I joined 7,999 others in Princes Street Gardens for Sleep in the Park. The atmosphere was maybe a bit like a UK music festival but without alcohol and this was one of the coldest winter nights in Edinburgh, minus 6 degrees when I left early the next morning. There are many who think spending just one night outdoors is not enough and I agree. However the purpose behind this massive fundraising project by Social Bite was an important kickstart to making a sustainable difference in Scotland. Josh Littlejohn, co-founder of Social Bite said in a recent BBC interview: “By taking part in Sleep in the Park, you are joining a movement to end homelessness in Scotland for good. We are planning to work closely with The Scottish Government and other charities to create an Action Plan which will provide Housing, Rehabilitation, Job Opportunities and the Support that homeless people need to get back on their feet.” Adding. “The statistics of homelessness are not insurmountable. There are currently an estimated 11,000 homeless people in Scotland and we believe that by working together, it could be eradicated within five years,” STV’s recent Hidden Homeless documentary was quite an eye opener for me. Every nineteen minutes a family in Scotland makes a Homeless Application and in Edinburgh alone it was reported that there were 40 homeless families in just one district of the city! Scottish author Kerry Hudson, herself homeless as a child, pointed out the reality “that many people are only two pay cheques away from the streets.” Homelessness is in my view the result of much bigger problems in our society.
For me, the night of Sleep in the Park seems an age ago, a massive attempt (and one that must succeed) to raise awareness in Edinburgh and further afield
It’s a multifaceted political situation that leaves the most vulnerable at the mercy of the system. Eviction, the inability to afford private rent, a relationship breakdown, divorce, job loss or a combination of these, produces grim alternatives. The thought of families with young children making do in one room with a shared bathroom in a B&B, or a single young person sofa surfing, or sleeping on the streets with all the dangers that prevail there, these kind of conditions should not be allowed to exist in our society. Currently there are about 40 rough sleepers in Edinburgh. I spoke with Lynne on Princes Street. Her options were either a £12 a night hostel (prices rise to £18 in the winter!) or sleeping in an alleyway on Rose Street. She made herself homeless after a relationship breakdown to ensure that her young son had safe accommodation. She would like to see some form of voucher system, which would contribute towards hostel costs and for more permanent forms of accommodation. (Thanks to Social Bite the Bethany Trust has already been donated £25,000 to expand its overnight emergency accommodation and further plans to create more permanent places are under way). Lynne is actively looking for work but with no permanent address this is very difficult for her. Billy Kennedy, bass player with Frightened Rabbit, who along with Liam Gallagher, Deacon Blue, Amy MacDonald and many others entertained us throughout the night was in no doubt… “Sleep in the Park was a great event
to help raise money towards ending homelessness. I know it’s nothing compared to actually living on the streets but those who took part will at least have gained a real insight into what it might feel like to live rough. I applaud everyone who took part in the event and raised money for such a great cause. Homelessness is such a huge problem, not only in Scotland but throughout the whole of the UK, and we need to do as much as possible to help those in need.” A week or so after the event I went back up Leith Walk and Princes Street with gifts for rough sleepers, A sleeping bag, leather boots, socks, rucksack and thermal underwear, all donated by Jo, a friend in Leith who, having undertaken a 500 mile charity walk, wanted to see her hiking gear given to a good cause. Helen Carlin, Founder and CEO of Rowan Alba, was delighted to support Sleep in the Park which has done so much to publicise the national scandal that is the increasing level of homelessness in our society. She thought it “heart-warming to see so many people get behind this cause, and demonstrate that they care about their fellow Scots. Working together, we can, and will, fix this!” For me, the night of Sleep in the Park seems an age ago, a massive attempt (and one that must succeed) to raise awareness. It demonstrated to me that by taking part and raising money, my fellow Leithers continue to be among the most generous people when it comes to supporting a worthy and very needy cause. Thank you all. n Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 23
Live France, live the democracy! The death of Madeleine Lebeau at her home in Costa del Sol marked a moment in film history says Kennedy Wilson
he name won’t mean much to most people but Madeleine Lebeau had a pivotal role in one of the most famous scenes in Hollywood’s most famous movie. Long voted the best film ever made: Casablanca (1941). It was one of the films that made Americans feel comfortable about entering World War II and was a high point in cinema creativity. Noah Isenberg’s recent book We’ll Always Have Casablanca tells of the making of the film and the reasons for its longevity and greatness. One of the major fables surrounding Casablanca was how much less of a movie it might have been had it been made with a different cast and that Ronald Reagan was once considered for the Humphrey Bogart part. ‘The casting of Casablanca has long been the source of intense speculation’, writes Isenberg. ‘It started when Warner Brothers issued a red herring of a stop press announcement >>> Ronald Reagan [is to] co-star in a yarn of war refugees in French Morocco>>> ‘Reagan was never a serious contender, and in retrospect such doctored publicity items, quite common at the time, seem to have been aimed more at making boldfaced names out of lesser-known contract players than at disseminating reliable information’. Isenberg suggests that had Reagan got the role in this movie his career might have gone stratospheric and he may never have gone into politics and not become president of the United States and the course that led to the fall of (some) communism might even have been different. The plot of the film centres on the discordance of the Nazi occupation of Casablanca in French Morocco where European refugees wait and wait at Rick’s “gin joint” to receive papers (legal or counterfeit) in order to get to America via Lisbon. On its release, Casablanca was seen as perfect on many grounds – a sophisticated and witty script full of tension, a great score by Max Steiner and rip-roaring performances from Bogart, Bergman, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Paul Henried, Claude Raines, Conrad Veidt and a flood of 24 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
Madeleine LeBeau (centre) was the last surviving cast member of Casablanca
Isenberg suggests that had Reagan got the role in the movie his career might have gone stratospheric and he may never have gone into politics
many sterling performances in lesser parts. Perhaps more than anything the film highlighted the importance of expert casting and conceivably what made the film so extraordinary was that it was not only about refugees but that many of the parts were played by German-speaking immigrants who had come to America for sanctuary from Hitler’s Nazism. At the time, many of the director Michael Curtiz’s family were trapped in Hungary. Of course the film was a glamourised Hollywood version (Paul Henreid plays a refugee from a concentration camp yet wears an immaculate linen suit) yet the film has many resonances today when pitiful refugees from Africa, Syria and Myanmar are constantly in the news. Rick’s Café Americain is a microcosm of Casablanca itself. A melting pot where…“everyone comes to Rick’s”. In its most celebrated scene, which runs on a loop in Berlin’s famous Film Forum, the Nazi officers, fortified by drink, burst into a rousing chorus of Die Wacht am Rhein a German patriotic song and the French patrons take umbrage. The band, the gypsy guitarist, and even the floozy, played by Madeleine Lebeau (who has been seen earlier on the arm of the hated German Lieutenant Strasser), all join in in solidarity and drown out the Germans with the French national anthem The Marseillaise. The sequence ends with Lebeau, tears streaming down her face, declaiming “vive , vive la démocratie.” The film was made at the height of World War II and seemed to say that no matter how dark and hopeless things may seem evil will never win. Though Madeleine Lebeau’s part was small
it was expertly cast. Her character is vulnerable, easily swayed but strongly patriotic to a fault. In November 2015 in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris a two-minute YouTube video of Lebeau’s rousing scene the ‘duel of anthems’, was shared by thousands to show solidarity with the victims. Today the casting couch has come in for deserved criticism much to the annoyance of the Casting Society of America. Movie casting has long had a seedy reputation where young hopefuls attend the director or producer’s office (or hotel suite!) and succumb to the horrors of having to offer sexual favours to be considered for a role. Good casting can make or break a movie. When, in the late 1930s, the groundbreaking Technicolor masterpiece Gone With the Wind was being made part of its publicity hype was the search for the actress who would play Scarlett O’Hara, a role every female Hollywood star at the time would have killed for. The part finally went to Vivien Leigh. Casablanca lives on. It’s always in the top ten movies of all time lists. There was a forgettable 1983 TV version with David Soul in the Bogart role. And according to Imdb ‘Back in the early to mid-2000s Madonna wanted to remake Casablanca with her playing Ilsa Lund and Ashton Kutcher as Rick Blaine. Madonna pitched the idea to every studio but was unanimously rejected with one executive telling her. ‘That film is deemed untouchable.” ■ ÊÊTwitter: @KenWilson84 ÊÊInfo: We’ll Always Have Casablanca by Noah Isenberg (published by Faber £25)
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The Blackbird Singing A
rusha Gallery has announced that the Edinburgh-based photographer Jannica Honey will be the subject of its spring exhibition. The Fuji award-winning artist will present When the Blackbird Sings, a new series of 30 works (digital Giclée prints), which focuses on the female body and its links with nature. The compelling works depict naked women of all ages as well as poetic shots of flowers in water. Subjects include family, friends and acquaintances of the artist – always posing outdoors at twilight. She shot the images over the course of a year, on every full and new moon, starting at the October 2016 Supermoon. The exhibition is named after the aforesaid blackbird, which greets twilight with song; while shooting
She shot the images over the course of a year, on every full and new moon the series Honey was struck by the song’s memento mori undertones. The resulting photographs unveil lyrical still lifes, alongside delicate moments of tenderness and unashamed femininity, celebrating the beauty of the female form at any age. While some sitters smile directly at camera, others look away, almost blending into the surrounding setting of moss and trees. The colourful flowers are captured resting on the surface of the Water of Leith. Shooting at twilight allowed Honey to challenge the limitations of her chosen medium, in part for the time constraint (twilight only 26 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
lasts 15-20 minutes), but also for the particular blue hue the light takes on during that time. While most photographers consider it unflattering for their subject matter and shy away from it, she explores its potential to offer a glimpse of an ephemeral moment in the 24-hour-cycle. The exhibition also delves into the significance and symbolism of dusk, studding the ethereal quality of twilight; an in-between moment which doesn’t belong to either day or night, and which Honey sees as an emotional, reflective pause in her day. The project started when Honey felt compelled to reaffirm her own ‘feminine voice’ in the face of personal challenges and maledominated political events – in particular the recent death of her grandmother and the US elections. By basing her shooting schedule on moon cycles – an intrinsic feminine rhythm – she channelled the earth’s natural rhythms into her work, exploring her own reconnection to womanhood and femininity. This photographer’s work often concerns itself with the female body and the place of women in society. In 2011 she spent two months photographing Edinburgh strippers, providing a candid and sensitive insight into a world rarely captured and her images have been published in The Los Angeles Times, Vogue, Dazed & Confused, Aesthetica Magazine and The Guardian. n ÊÊExhibition: Jannica Honey: When The Blackbird Sings; 2-25 March 2018 Arusha Gallery, 13A Dundas St, Edinburgh, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm/ Sunday by appointment ÊÊInfo: arushagallery.com/ jannicahoney.com
BenMacpherson MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith
“For a’ that, an’ a’ that, it’s coming yet for a’ that” A
With a father from Ayrshire learning about Burns was part of my childhood and whenever I pass the statue in Leith I think about how pertinent his words are today
s Happy New Year wishes disappear over the horizon and resolutions are forgotten we begin considering what to aim for next, this time of year always feels like a chance to refocus and look forward to what’s ahead. And whether it’s singing Auld Lang Syne in a spirit of human solidarity at Hogmanay, or enjoying some (in my case vegetarian) haggis at a Burns Supper, for many of us, celebrating Robert Burns’ poetry is one of the real highlights of this time of year. My MSP office is in Constitution Street (and please do come by if you think I can ever help with something) not far from the famous statue of Robert Burns at the junction with Bernard Street. With a father from Ayrshire, learning about the Bard was part of my childhood, and whenever I pass the statue in Leith I always think about how pertinent many of Burns’ words are today – how some of the messages he tried to convey in his writing are as important as they’ve ever been. For instance, there’s the environmentalism in the words of Tae A Moose; and there’s the powerful egalitarianism and internationalism of A Man’s A Man For A’ That. And as we get going with another year of trying to cope with the challenges of Westminster’s Brexit, Trumpism and continued Tory austerity, to me the humanitarian ethos of A Man’s A Man For A’ That is something we should all try to keep focussed on and keep striving for. Like many others, I got involved in politics because I want to help build a fairer society and, ultimately, eradicate poverty – to help create a Scotland and a world that’s more equal and just. Some might say that’s idealistic – but, for me, if we don’t have aspirations and a collective determination to make a difference then things really won’t change – and we still need many things to change. And despite the problems of Brexit and Westminster austerity, in Scotland there are good reasons to be more cheerful – we can take confidence that, despite the challenges, we’re making meaningful progress towards building a fairer society for the benefit of all. Making Leith and the rest of Scotland fairer is of course a very complex question and a challenging process. But one thing that’s clear is that the circulation and distribution of income forms part of the solution.
A Robert Burns stamp from the 1990s
Before this spring, the Scottish Government will set its budget for the year ahead, with agreement from the Scottish Parliament. As has happened a lot in recent times, Scotland is receiving less resources from Westminster - £500 million (£0.5 billion) less over the next 2 years, which is part of £2.6 billion of Tory cuts between 2010-2020. And, as you’ve probably already heard, in order to help mitigate these cuts, the SNP Scottish Government intends to use its new income tax powers to support investment in the NHS, education, childcare, affordable housing and protecting the environment. I welcome this because it’s about all of us paying our fair share to support our public services – which are, of course, important for us all. Unfortunately, aside from Income Tax, the Scottish Parliament doesn’t have control over many other taxes – yet. In Scotland we can’t increase taxes on multinational corporations, who are often hiding their profits offshore, because Corporation Tax and most avoidance regulations are controlled by Westminster; we can’t easily tax excessive wealth here in Scotland, because Capital Gains Tax, dividend income taxation and Inheritance Tax are all controlled in London too. We also can’t raise the minimum wage, because powers over employment law were blocked from coming to the Scottish Parliament after 2014. However, what we can do is, responsibly and reasonably, increase income tax for
higher earners – and that’s what the SNP Scottish Government plans to do. To me that’s right and fair – those of us who earn enough should be willing to pay more tax to fund public services, help others and support future generations. And the good thing in Scotland is that, when you pay your income tax now, you know that any extra tax paid to Revenue Scotland will go straight to funding schools, hospitals, the police and building new homes - all here in Scotland. Higher earners paying a bit more will deliver record amounts of funding for the Scottish NHS, more direct funding for head teachers to spend in their classrooms, real terms funding protection for the police budget and significant increased funding for more social housing. Another important thing is that, under the SNP Scottish Government’s plans, 70% of taxpayers in Scotland will actually pay less income tax next year! Yes, lower earners will pay less tax – that’s fairer too. So, despite the gloomy weather at this time of year, and the wider gloomy political climate, in Scotland we have good reasons to be hopeful. With the new powers that our Scottish Parliament has, real progress is being made, bold new policies are being actioned, and creative solutions are being found. A fairer Scotland is possible – so let’s persevere, for a’ that. ■ ÊÊTwitter: @BenMacpherson Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 27
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Mrs MacPickle Solves All Your Problems!
You play boner, I play orgasm Dear Mrs MacPickle, How does one keep any kind of romance going in ones long-term relationship without spending a fortune? I am quite fond of my husband, and I sometimes quite fancy him, but we are both chronically busy with work commitments, and as our children go to bed later and later it’s hard to get time alone. And I am almost never feeling flush enough to fork out for both a babysitter and the cost of a night out. I can’t even stretch to a takeaway most weeks. We are both so knackered that any free time at all seems to see us glued to the telly or taking it in turns to get out of the house. What can I do? Anon My dear friend, I hear you. As our children get older we move from beyond the exhaustion of having babies and hence not wanting to go near our partners, to having just enough energy to quite fancy the idea but not having the time or space. Here is my advice, and I would say that it is perhaps given with more confidence than most of my usual advice. It goes like this: 1) Make a date with your partner with all the calendar writing, diary filling certainty of any other engagement even though you are
28 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 121
not going to physically go out. Say something like, 2) “I was thinking we could make a date to spend time together, say Wednesday 8 o’clock 3) Keep this time free with all the vigour you would keep a work meeting or thing-with-someoneyou-take-for-granted-less-thanyour-partner. 4) Plan to do something low key but nice with this time. Ideas could be to share a couple of weird local beers and talk about which one you like best, have a glass of wine and listen to an old album in its entirety that you haven’t bothered with for years since It All Went Digital, or most ideally of all… 5) PLAY SCRABBLE. I can’t stress enough the value of making a scrabble date in advance. It is free, it doesn’t take long, and it’s just the right amount of quality engagement with another human being you can just about manage, however tired or stressed you are. Plus, you might even be able to spice things up with some rude words. Once Mr MacPickle played ‘boner’, which allowed me to get ‘orgasm’ onto a double word score. And, my friend, we really can’t ask for more than that now can we? ■ ÊÊGot a prickly problem? E-mail Mrs MacPickle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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s much as we like to think of history as objective and factual, it is nothing of the sort when it comes to the multitude of lives surviving fallouts of more significant events. I am currently researching a fictional project set in 1950s Edinburgh and Leith. The story focuses on a troubled romance, and I would like to touch on communities of colour who lived in Scotland. Many publications and textbooks have put forth a single-minded narrative of this period: namely, the daily routines of a majority populace. But the stories of the minority are just as valid and deserving of being told, which is my aim. Hopefully, I will be able to accrue a notion of what it was like, and in doing so be faithful to the diverse history of a beloved time and place. I am looking for individuals and families of colour who emigrated to (or lived in)garden Edinburghwith during Beer wonderful views of the Forth this time – particularly from Indian Fantastic food or mixed backgrounds. In order tohomemade Volunteers, Edinburgh Mela 2017 understand the social climate it is Saturday/Sunday served pursued. What, for11-3.30pm example, were important for me to explore thebrunch the social of people many reasons they had for coming Children welcome and dogpreoccupations friendly of colour? Did they often mix, or did here, as well as the journeys that COCKTAIL HOURS they keep to their community? brought them from afar. Were many my questions are people of colour treated well-by Sunday Thursday As 9pm tooflate addressed to those who may or may local Scots? Were they accepted, Friday /or Saturday 10pm have to the1am opportunity to read discriminated, glamourised made not this,tap I kindly implore second or to seem exotic? Prosecco wine on £4.25 third generation readers to inquire of their older relatives, as it would 32 Trinity Crescent, Edinburgh T: 0131 552 4960 be an invaluable testimony to my www.oldchainpier.com research. Looking for individuals Should you have any information Mon/Fri noon-12am or stories to share, please get in and families of Satcolour noon-1am Sun 10am-1am touch via my contact details below. who emigrated to (or I am also happy to liaise over the phone or by video call if convenient. lived in) Edinburgh If interested persons prefer to meet, at this time I should be able to visit Leith itself for an interview in the summer of 2018. Newspapers from the 1950s have Thank you for taking the time given me a favourable impression to read this! I would be incredibly of international inhabitants and grateful for any information or visitors, especially during the correspondence. Having lived in festival, although these articles Edinburgh for four years, a year rarely dwell at length on such of which I spent in Leith, I can subjects. genuinely say that it is a source of Another aspect lacking in the prevalent narrative is the substance great personalities. I only wish to contribute to its colourful wealth of of immigrant communities, narratives! ■ i.e., what formed the everyday texture of their lives in Leith? I am Nuri Tal interested in discovering the shops they frequented, their careers, ÊÊEmail: email@example.com and what leisurely activities were ÊÊTwitter: @CastNuri
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CrosswordNo.96 Win a Coffee & your choice of cake
across 1 5 10 11 12 13 15 18 20 23 25 26 27 28
Satisfaction of pure sale that went wrong? (8) Burmese hillman hollowed out topaz for cotton cloth (6) English side moon! What porn? TNT exploded! (11,4) In a Northern city, stupidly! (7) Respected drug for pit books (7) Slays in group ability (5,3) Points in Indian state for Italian port (5) King Sam back without identity (5) Needy soldier back in hollow (8) Relaxed old city in state (7) Warm the girl? (7) Line wet nudes act out as ten (9,6) Aged part of field estate (6) Icy stars could be found in corner of church (8)
down 1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 14 16 17 19 21 22 24 25
Princess in wager by expert (6) Dear me! Ark decommissioned and designated (9) School girl? Quickly! (7) Odd expression of surprise in game (5) Can in suspended shoot (7) Nothing in hooter for the hangman (5) Of the most powerful Buddhist, I halt crazily (8) Declared at ashes perhaps Ed! (8) Thirteen's jumbled, pots! (8) No French wit, she mixed with Africans or Asians say (3-6) Twelve loose tee say for church cardinal (8) Better than to usurp Assyrian part (7) Ron the music man into viagra in ermine! (7) Father girl, why, state before the weekend (6) Get married or pulled (5) Greeting to girl or wild dog (5)
answers: crossword 95 across
1 Publican 5 Scrape 10 Queensferry Road 11 Endorse 12 Titular 13 Bondsman 15 Louse 18 Tales 20 Cue cards 23 Impasse 25 Enforce 26 Portobello beach 27 Rising 28 Attender
1 Piques 2 Bread roll 3 Ignored 4 Alfie 6 Crystal 7 Atoll 8 Endorsed 9 Pretence 14 Machetes 16 Underhand 17 Stripper 19 Sassoon 21 Affable 22 Tether 24 Perks 25 Eclat
winner crossword 95 Jackie Kellyʼs Husband, Edinburgh
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WinterFitness Tracy Griffen
Apricity in the City I
Should I worry that I prefer living in a crappy climate? No. The long days of summer are worth it and life is more interesting when the daylight hours vary so much
learned a new word today. Apricity. I was standing on the hill of Pilrig Park, eyes closed, absorbing the wintersun or winter sun (I couldn’t work out if wintersun was two words or one). Having consulted the oracle of everything, a.k.a. the internet, it turns out winter sun is in fact two words and also one word: apricity. Apricity was coined in 1623 when Henry Cockeram authored The English Dictionary. However it became obsolete. Apricity is obsolete no longer – it’s now back in print on this very page, and we should all reclaim the word to describe the appreciation of the distant glow of the sun in December (or January for that matter). This is important; especially as the day I’m writing this is winter solstice. Earlier today I walked around Holyrood Park with a special needs fitness client, in winter we know to walk towards the Duddingston side of the hill to get a glimpse of the sunrise (today 9.08am). We leave the main park, which is overshadowed by Arthur’s Seat, until after 10am and we stand in the sunlight there only briefly as it is cold. I’ve been in Scotland 20 years now and I’m finally learning the seasons. I have also realised I am a creature of the sun – we all are, to some degree. If you grow up here, you probably don’t freak out every December when the sun seems to disappear. It is no wonder we used to celebrate winter solstice – though nowadays we generally work indoors and rely on industrial farming – because we are still connected to the seasons. The impossibly long days of summer are peculiar too, where else in the world would the first glimpse of spring sunshine find peely-wally peeps heading to their local park with ‘taps aff’ to absorb glorious Vitamin D? This fascination with the weather really began when I got an allotment and I could see the changing of the seasons first hand. It inspired me to publish the Healthy Living Yearbook in 2011, an exercise and recipe book that follows the seasons – in a similar format to an allotment diary, month by month, what’s in season etc. What we do in winter is quite different from what we do in summer. Summer salads are divine and roast vegetables on a cold dreich day just seem so...right. It’s my belief that roasted Scottish parsnips are the best in the world because parsnips harvested after a frost have a greater depth of flavour. To those who assert that “if the weather was better in Edinburgh the
A low winter sun, not Pilrig Park!
place would be overrun with people.” I can only repeat my mantra: ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing’. When I first moved here, upon spying a blue sky I would assume it was warm outside and don sandals, resulting in frozen feet. I learned my lesson pretty quickly though. Nowadays, I swear by merino wool base layers and those sandals have gathered dust under the bed. Should I worry that I prefer living in a crappy climate? No. The long days of summer are worth it and life is more interesting when the daylight hours vary so much; there is a rhythm to seasonality and, let’s face it, you have something to talk to your barber about! Because, whether we like it or not, we are obsessed by the weather. As a personal trainer who does lots of fitness work outdoors I have the Met Office’s forecast as a shortcut on my phone, even though I’ve long since mastered the art of dressing for Scotland’s climate.
A stumbling block was hit in the writing of this page. The editor had set a deadline for all stories to be submitted. However, like many people, when it comes to the festive season (and darkest days of the year) I simply stop being able to cognate clearly, let alone write. This page was
literally three quarters done and, in one of the few times in the decade I’ve been writing for The Leither, I messaged Mr Billy explaining that it would be finished in the New Year, when the days started getting longer and my brain re-engaged with the rest of the world. So, between the first paragraph and this we have had Christmas and Hogmanay. Hogmanay is most significant as it harks the dawning of a new year, new possibilities, and longer days. Over the week after Hogmanay we gained an extra half an hour of daylight each day. Not bad eh? My inner optimist is starting to emerge from its winter slumber. I’m feeling hopeful, I’m feeling healthier and I’m feeling happier already. Coming up soon are The Leith Festival Burns supper, the Scottish Small Business Awards lunch (Griffen Fitness is a finalist in the Green/Ethical Business of the Year award), my birthday, and Coco’s birthday. And that’s who will be featured in my next column – Coco the Superpug Therapet. And too the days will get even longer… I’m already thinking about standing on the hill of Pilrig Park, face to the summer sun (two words), a mere 4 months away. Happy days. ■ ÊÊTwitter: @griffenfitness ÊÊFacebook: /griffenfitness ÊÊInfo: www.getfitandenjoyit.com Issue 121 | leithermagazine.com | 31
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