Category Archives: General

General news and views. Includes old postings from archive.

Little baby brother arrived

The little baby brother arrived in a rush after Sunday lunch at the Botanics. This time we had a good home water birth although it seemed much more painful than the first time. But it was brilliant to be able to raid the fridge in the night and to get onto the internet and computer and send pictures and reports to friends and relatives straight away. And it is so much more relaxing if you know who is coming through the bedroom door and when.
Since then we had been very busy with our two year old toddler who is keen to test out any rules from not bringing sand into the house to not playing with the toilet water or throwing about the cat litter.
Asking the health visitor what to do and she said it might help just to keep the big brother busy with lots of nice things to do, so we have been testing out as many soft play centres as we could find in Edinburgh. We have been going to Amazone at The Kabin in Loanhead, which is nicely located in and at a community centre, but the soft play area and the cafe are quite small and it was a bit overrun with kids of all ages and parents.
Scrambles at the Edinburgh Indoor Climbing Arena is fantastic and a lot is going on there in the huge building which is located in an old quarry. However it is much more expensive and basically you need a car to go there with the kids. I like that you can watch the climbers from the cafe at the different walls. It is very fascinating.
We might have to move towards the end of the year as my partner’s work is closing down in Edinburgh.


When you have kids, or even one, time flies by and there seems to be so much more urgent things to do than writing a blog. I am pregnant again with our second baby due in summer. And so far 2012 seems to become quite a tough year for us. Our toddler is however our biggest delight, his favourite word is “no” now.

The Secret Millionaire in Pilton

Last Sunday the episode of “The Secret Millionaire” which is situated in Pilton, has been broadcast on Channel 4 [ Episode guide ]. I found it quite intriguing to see Pilton portrayed by an outside TV production crew.

They really managed to get the worst shots of the areas, mainly by going over to Muirhouse and filming the empty houses marked for demolition, which are still standing because of legal problems with some owners.  The TV crew managed to take shots of the shopping centre without the audience being able to see any of the  new buildings like the North Edinburgh Arts Centre or even the library or the super Craigroyston Community High School surrounding it and managed to portray the area worse than it really is, although the protagonist  stressed that the area has got a really good community feel with a lot of the residing projects and charities.
I also never had heard of CCLASP (Children with Cancer and Leukaemia Advice and Support for Parents) before, which actually seems to be situated in Leith,  the TV crew seems to have extended the area bounds quite liberally again.

I vaguely remember the filming here, marred with an  heightened activity in PEP’s garden at that week, which usually lies about rather ignored. The TV crew were actually quite unobtrusive as only two people or so, I actually could not see them taking outside shots with the “secret millionaire” although it seemed at one point they were having a piece to camera but it seemed more like a news crew at that point rather than filming a documentary.  As I waddled through the background of the picture with my stroller I was very inclined to shout – if you move half a metre to your left you get the new houses in! And the gorgeous view to the Forth estray!

Anyways people are used to Pilton video zooming about the area with their cameras although the big black van with the dark windows obviously made everybody very curious and got everybody talking. That was also the week when the window of one of the cars in front of PEP was put through. I guess the kids have been acting up a bit for the camera, too.

Pilton is usually having a bad press treatment by the Edinburgh Evening News/Johnston Press and is ignored by the rest of the media unless there is a murder or so.
So it is quite nice that actually a positive side is portrayed of this area, and the local groups and the community spirit in Pilton  are definitely the areas biggest attractions. [ Scotsman article ]
In a way it is sad that the issue of the big funding cuts to the local community have not made the way into the documentary, especially the NEN, the North Edinburgh News is sadly missed. Somehow I would also be keen to know how the charities were selected, if the “secret millionaire” tried others but were turned away because of organisational issues like lack of references or because of time/planning constraints within projects. And they never seem to have to fill in one of these looooong volunteer forms on the programm.

I was also astonished that none of the community centres  made it into the documentary as there are so many activities going on there, and none of the childrens groups either, which are quite big and good in this area. A pity the North Edinburgh Trust with had gone that much downhill it wasn’t mentioned in the documentary either, with all the good work they had done to empower the people in the community out of poverty.

I wonder if the documentary will have any lasting effect on Pilton;  I guess the initial portrayal of Pilton as a run-down place riddled with drinks and drugs will set it back again for a while. Dunno about the councils reaction, it would be good if they would put more money into the area, but so far, all they want to do is to take the roof of the shopping centre!



Review of “Peace, Love and Petrolbombs”

book cover If somebody you know writes a novel with strong autobiographical influence then one of the attraction of reading it is to find out and speculate about whom he writes about, how much of the story has really happened and in what ways it got changed and what has been left out and why. Out of this reason I did enjoy reading the book. So I liked best reading about the political protests and parts which were similar to things I experienced, like when the author sets the scene at a London squat or describes the Anarchist Bookfair.
Personally I found the writing style  really good and the plot has enough tension for the reader to carry on reading one chapter after the other  immediately. It is difficult to put the book aside, its a real page turner.. The book also has a good narrative with jumping forward and back in the time line like “Pulp Fiction”, but the end is left disturbingly open.
So is Deanne’s suicide, you wonder why she did it and what happened to her child, but no explanation is given.
I have also difficulties in determining who the target audience is for the book. At the start, particularly when it comes to a lot of swearing in Benny’s Burgers Bar, I thought the book would be aimed at not quite yet politicised teenagers.  But later on, on page 177 when we finally encounter the first petrol bomb, I considered it being written for the already long-term activists, as there are hardly any factual explanations anymore about the aims and objectives of the protests and the strategy employed or even why Wayne was there. I don’t think it even mentioned that it was a EU summit and that protests at that time were vaguely  about the enlargement of the EU. “Singled out for criticism were the EU’s refugee and immigration policies, complicity in the war in Iraq, and slashing of pensions. ” says Indymedia about the 2003 protests then but in the book explanations for the protests are rare – as is also suddenly the appearance of a refugee support demonstration when the topic hasn’t been mentioned before. However, for long-term politically active people, who know that kind of stuff already,  the book is not empowering nor encouraging them in their struggle either as towards the end the protagonist becomes depressed and disillusioned with activism. Not once, but twice, and both times the questions are left open and there is no closure for the reader yet again. Out of this reasons I would find it difficult to review or recommend the book in more mainstream left-leaning or liberal publications and it might stop the book from becoming commercially successful.

So to summarise:
The book really made me want to smoke again. I regret not knowing what Wayne did at Gleneagles in 2005 and 2007 in Heiligendamm.
I found the book too (working)class obsessed to the point of distraction . Although in Britain, with the Queen and Thatcherism and all that, the class system is regarded as an important and sacrosanct issue. From my experience there will always be a class system; not necessarily  about the accumulation of wealth but for example about the level of education available to individuals or even in  political circles, for example about the level  and practice of politicization and trust. I found it very enlightening when finding out that the children of university-educated professionals in the GDR were not allowed to study themselves in order to prevent an upper or even middle class system. However, there was still a political elite formed as it did not apply to the children of polit officals ranking more or less highly.
I found it a deeply unfair and unjust rule.

Also in the book, I missed the description of the local protests in Edinburgh during that time, like Foot and Mouth during Genoa in 2001 and of ‘ACE’ and similar. Personally, for me,  Waynes character seems to have some gaps between Benny’s Burgers and sociology studies – I missed him getting empowered in a practical way at that time. He often seems too passive as if life was done to him rather than he actively living it.

Missed at the description of the Mayday 2000 protests is also the raid of the petrol station, the break-out of parliament square, the compost toilet and the attack on McDonalds and the conference the day before. Maybe that will be included in one of D.D.Johnston’s next books.





Recommendable parenting books

I did enjoying being on maternity leave a lot, and as baby has been so well-behaved even got the chance to read some books:

Sheila Kitzinger: “Understanding your Crying Baby” is a great book and educated me about some common  misunderstandings and prejudices. For example, I did not know before I read this book, that the mothers of many of the babies, who cry most, like over 6 hours a day,  also experienced a bad, stressful pregnancy, a traumatic birth with lots of interventions and drugs and a patronising, autocratic hospital environment. Also interesting the fact that babies cry most at the 3rd week and in the 3rd month after birth and that some drugs take about a month to clear out of the babies system which leads to some babies changing behaviour dramatically afterwards.
In total there is so much about crying explained I have never thought of before so I would highly recommend this book. It talks about different mothering styles, the history of parenting and advice books and also gives lots of example stories and good ideas how to ease the (stress of) crying.

Other books I found really helpful are Deborah Jacksons: “Three in a Bed: The Benefits of Sleeping with your Baby” from the P&P centres library. The NHS still advises that the baby sleeps in a seperate cot, but for us it did not work. Having our little one in bed helped me to get at least 10 hours sleep a night when I needed it most, and snuggling up with him in bed is the best thing ever anyways. The medical advice is  that the baby sleeping in bed with the parents would increase the danger of cot death, but for example in Japan, where co-sleeping with the baby in the same bed is normal, there are hardly any unexplained cot deaths at all. Also when the baby was very ill I found I could monitor his condition much better when he was sleeping by my side. And he does hardly ever cry, which I attribute to being very close to me for the majority of the hours per day. As a baby knows it is very helpless it feels best when being close to mummy and daddy anyways, so naturally it feels so badly that it needs to be sleep close to the parents who will protect it from any danger. This is explained also in the book “The Continuum Concept” which blasts modern parenting concepts, like “Gina Ford’s crying it out” with the anger of an anthropologist researching natural birth and parenting styles with indigenous tribes.

There are lots of publications about birth rights from AIMS, the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services – at the P&P Centre to borrow, they have got a nice library there .

They have got special publications for cases like Breech Birth, Induction and so on, maybe more interesting in the later stages of pregnancy but hugely significant if you prefer a natural birth to a medicalised one. Especially the induction booklet is very good, because the due date can either often be miscalculated and also it is based on a research of only a few dozens birth about a century and a half ago.