Remember the Mystery Paper Sculptor…?

If you’re a resident of Edinburgh, or just a fan of mysteries, you’ve probably heard of the Mystery Paper Sculptor. An anonymous artist left beautiful, delicate sculptures in various arts venues around Edinburgh.  It has been written about extensively in the Edinburgh press and blogging community, so I wont re-hash – but if you want the cockles of your heart to be thoroughly warmed, then read all about it here. Or here. Or indeed here. Edinburgh photographer Chris Scott – also known as the literary paparazzo – has taken some great shots of the sculptures, which you can see on Flickr.

It is a wonderful story, and for me it really sums up Edinburgh – the importance of arts, of books, of community and generosity of spirit.

We thought the story was finished. But guess what? It’s not.
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The One Where Mummy Goes to Nursery

I’ve been feeling a bit guilty recently about not being more involved with DorkySon’s nursery. Because he only goes two mornings a week, he misses quite a lot of their big events. We did make it along to watch his nativity play before Christmas, but we didn’t make the Christmas Party or the Santa visit, and last week we missed the Easter Bonnet parade too.

So when one of the staff asked a few weeks ago if I would come in and do a twenty-minute storytelling session for DorkySon’s class, I felt obliged to say yes. We agreed a time and a theme, and I knew that with a couple of weeks to prepare I could come up with something fairly informative but entertaining too. All was well… until I shared the news with DorkySon.
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My Edinburgh Guide: D – G

So yesterday I posted the first installment of my guide to Edinburgh, covering A-C, along with an explanation of why I’m doing it. Today I’m posting Part 2, letters D-G. Again, if you want to post any thoughts and suggestions, along with your own favourite things about the city, you’re very welcome to do that in the comments below.
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Settling In: a Butcher, a big pink slide and Benny plays the Blues

blues harmonica

We’ve been in our new place just over a week now, and it’s starting to really take shape. DorkyDad spent much of the weekend putting pictures up – how could we not feel at home with Benny the Blues Harmonica Player on our living room wall – and DorkySon and I took advantage of the good weather to get out and explore some more.

We are in a residential neighbourhood; it’s very quiet and feels very safe. There is a beautiful wee park right beside us, filled with crunchy autumn leaves, squirrels and dog walkers. That makes me happy. There is a petrol station across the road, so DorkySon has spent a lot of the last week standing in the window, mesmerised by the constant movement of cars, trucks and tankers. That makes him happy. And on Saturday we finally found two very important things; a wine store and a butcher right beside each other. So that’s DorkyDad happy now too.

DorkySon and I joined the library last week. It took quite a long time… while I sat trying to fill in our forms, and the very patient woman on the desk entered our details into her computer, DorkySon sat and worked his way through a copy of ‘What Car’ magazine, announcing to everyone in the library (at full volume) what his favourite car was on each page. We got there eventually though, and it was well worth the wait. All the children’s books are stored in the ‘carriages’ of a red wooden train, with little benches for sitting on between each carriage. I think we’ll be spending a lot of time in there this winter.

We also found another playground, and met up with two brilliant mums and their kids in an indoor adventure play area. DorkySon spent all morning scooting down an enormous pink slide. Graceful he was not, but his enthusiasm couldn’t be faulted. Later this week we are off to meet another mum (another Edinburgh exile) at something called the Kangaroo Club. I am assured that it doesn’t involve any actual marsupials – just lots of toys and a big space to run around, with unlimited coffee and friendly chat for the parents.

So yes, in short, DorkySon is in toddler heaven. He’s spoilt for choice with fun things to do. He’s also working hard to get his head around DorkyDad’s new job. Earlier in the week he asked if Daddy was out reading poetry all day. ‘No,’ we said. ‘He’s working in an office, asking people for money so that other children can have food and be happy like you are.’

DorkySon let this ferment in his brain for a day or two, and then over the weekend he said ‘Maybe next week I could go with Daddy to his office and meet all the children that he is looking after…’


The Fight for the Forest

Unless you’ve been wrapped up in your own wee world, (which is entirely possible for the numerous journalists, performers and visitors who are in Edinburgh during the Fringe), you’ve probably heard the news about the Forest Café.

In October last year Edinburgh University Settlement, who owned the Forest premises on Bristo Place, were declared bankrupt and forced into administration. The administrators (PWC) put the property on the market and as part of that process, terminated the Forest’s lease, giving notice of the date they had to leave the building – Wednesday 31 August. Last week, it was announced that the sale of the building has fallen through, but PWC are still going to boot the Forest out.

Despite their position as the sitting tenant, and despite being the only party willing to rent the premises, the Forest have been told by PWC that they’re “more hassle than they’re worth”. (Yes, they really did say that.)

As Ryan van Winkle, Forest Volunteer and reader-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library says, “I was shocked to hear a PWC representative say they were unwilling to enter negotiations about the Forest remaining in Bristo Place, especially as we have been responsible tenants for almost eight years. I would have thought receiving rent from a sitting tenant would serve the creditors interests more than having no income from a vacant building and inheriting all the maintenance costs.”

I can’t pretend to be a daily, or even a weekly visitor to the Forest. But like hundreds, nay thousands, of Edinburgh folk, I have enjoyed some great times there, and realise what a crucial part of the city’s arts and culture scene it is.

It’s the only place I can think of where, over the years, I have felt equally comfortable sitting alone with a book; sitting with groups of fellow students planning a campaign or preparing for a tutorial; meeting up with other mothers for a cup of tea and a blether; and attending lively music and spoken word nights.

Walking past the Forest, I have often been drawn in by the sight of some new artwork in their exhibition space, or the sound of a slightly offbeat but funky band jamming, or the smell of something spicy on the stove. The posters in their windows always have amazing illustrations, to accompany the details of an awesome sounding event. There is usually a gathering of folk outside, having a fag and a chat.

“Smelly hippies,” said some of my less tolerant acquaintances at uni. Well no, not really; just some good people, volunteering their time, for a collectively run arts and events space. It’s hard to see how that could be a bad thing.

This August, the Forest has been buzzing. There has been the Inky Fingers Mini Fest, a ninja gig from Amanda Palmer, and a Psychegaelic Ceilidh. There has been art, literature, music, spoken word, dancing, debate, and a hell of a lot of tasty hummus served.

It is hard to imagine Edinburgh with no Forest. If PWC’s decision stands, it will mean the loss of a unique space, which serves a passionate local community. It will mean less innovation, less collaboration, and an enormous barrier pushed up against access to the arts in the city.

I suppose this isn’t quite as important, in the grand scheme of things, but it will also mean that I’ll never have the chance to take advantage of the Forest’s Sip and Snip service (a haircut with vodka!). Please don’t deny me that.

There are many ways you can help the Forest. Publicise their cause, write a letter, sign the petition, donate cash, attend an event… just tell them that you love them. The best place to keep up to date with it all is on their blog, which you can find here.