Wednesday, 24 September 2014


I was distracted last week from the tension and excitement of the referendum on Scottish independence due partly to preparing for my new role as tutor of film and television for the new Pauline Quirk Academy of Performing Arts, PQA for short, the first of its kind in Scotland.

It's hard to believe now that just one week ago the eyes of the world were upon Scotland as it decided its future. There is still a lot of passion on both sides, especially from the Yes campaign, but I hope that the passion turns away from negativity to one of positivity some time soon. 

An enthusiastic team from the PQA head office south of the border led the launch day of the academy last Saturday, to a large number of eager and interested young people.

I started the day off with a Green group, ages 6 to 8, followed by Blue, ages 9 to 12 and then Red, 13 to 18. Each session was down to 40 minutes as a taster of what we have on offer, but it was quite high pressure, as all the tutors were embarking on something very new.  Having delivered the taster sessions at one school on the west side of Edinburgh, we shifted camp to the north side and did it all again.

After a 10-hour day I collapsed into my bed early, exhausted.

This week I've been working on the lesson plans proper, as this Saturday is the first of our actual academies.

Mixed in with all that has been several other tasks, all equally demanding. I'm coming to the end of a month long build in my garden of a new, large shed. I say shed, but it has been built to a house spec to make it as damp proof as possible. Then I have my ongoing large renovation project 50 miles north, just outside Dundee. And then there was a meeting with our local council to finalise plans to bring electric provision to a monthly farmers market that I run, a two year project.

But on Tuesday I will escape the chaos for a couple of days into the Highlands of Scotland, and you can read all about that next week.

Did someone say busy?

Thursday, 18 September 2014


Today the people of Scotland decide whether or not to split from the rest of the United Kingdom and go it alone.

I've listened to the debate on both sides. Well, to the extent where I began to lose the will to live! It has gone on forever and a day. But quite rightly so, as this is a major decision. Despite all this debate I feel it is too soon to vote. Not enough time has been spent figuring everything out. There are too many unanswered questions.

The one great thing about this entire process is people are talking about Scotland all around the world. But here at home it has divided the nation. Even as I write this the polls cannot call it. It is virtually split down the middle.

Which is a problem.

On something so decisive and so historical it should not have been a simple case of one vote could swing it. It's too important. We need to know the vast majority want independence or not. Even a golf club that wishes to amend its constitution has to get a 66% majority. This is a nations future we're debating and yet one vote either way will decide it?!

People talk about the referendum in 1979 and 20 years later we had out own parliament. They go on to say how much longer do we need this time as we've had three years to deliberate. To me that's just not long enough and everything feels rushed. I love Scotland and we owe it the respect to consider it's future more carefully than tit for tat argumentative political debates.

There's also far too much emotion and this has created aggression among some friends in opposing camps. It's reasonable to say that emotion plays a part, and even a touch of the romantic notion, but we should be deciding on hard facts, and we don't have enough at the moment to decide either way.

From the romantic notion of "being that nation again", let's not forget that when the Act of Union took place in 1707 to create the United Kingdom, Scotland was all but bankrupt. We have less than five million people in Scotland, not all of which are tax payers. We give everyone a free education in university and free medical prescriptions. Let alone the cost of converting to independence and small things such as our own armed forces, how do we afford all this?

I'm very tired of the nationalistic point of view and the anti-English attitude. That is so archaic and ignores the fact the world is a smaller place these days and we're far more connected than ever before. Though I am from Scotland I consider myself European. Will I lose that status along with my passport? Already I see fierce antagonism and insults thrown between the yes and no supporters, and it worries me that maybe that aggression will escalate on Friday by the losing side. Whatever the outcome, it has sadly led to a divided nation, so even if we do decide to go it alone, there are deep wounds.

This all said I too am attracted by the prospect of independence, but only if we can be far more organised and knowledgeable about how we go forward, which we aren't at the moment.

So what to do.

In my view the best way forward for the chance of Scotland going independent is to vote no.

That sounds illogical doesn't it? But think about it. If we have a yes decision then that's it. There's no going back. However, if we have a no decision we buy more time to get better organised and gather the knowledge we need before we decide to walk away from a United Kingdom.

Or not.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


Today is September 11th.

13 years ago in 2001, the world was glued to its TV sets as the full horror, of what has become known as Nine Eleven, unfolded.

Four planes were hijacked. One was overcome by the passengers and crashed into a field. Another was flown into the side of the Pentagon. At quarter to nine in the morning, the first of the other two planes crashed into the north tower of World Trade Centre in New York, and less than 20 minutes later the other was crashed into the south tower. By 10.30am both 1378 foot buildings would be a pile of rubble and twisted metal on the ground.

By the end of the day just short of 3,000 people would be dead.

On May 2nd ten years later, the designer of these senseless attacks by al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, was hunted down in Pakistan and killed.

One year later, in May 2012, the New World Trade Centre building was completed, becoming the 4th largest skyscraper in the world at 1776 feet, a symbolic number referencing the US Declaration of Independence of that year. The 104 storey structure will open sometime in the Fall this year.

New York City has a new iconic skyline.

This coming week I will start teaching young students the art of film making, and the vast majority of those children were not alive in 2001. For them it is an event from the history books, albeit very recent. In many ways it will be the same for them as it is for most of us reading and watching stories about WWI, disconnected as we are by the passage of time, and occurring in a different generation.

Today is September 11th.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Is it really September already? Did I really forget to post last week?!

Yikes, how time flies!

I have been pre-occupied with a new project in my garden, a large garden shed, one that is consuming all my time, and then some. I did have some help for a while but I'm now left dealing with this monstrous build, at times very physically demanding, on my own. So much so I have had to ask for help from one of my neighbours as I had an accident today which has slowed me down. Nothing serious, but it made me realise just how much I am trying to achieve in a short space of time, by myself.

But less of the negative. More importantly than this all-consuming project, is a new post in film making that I have recently been asked to take up. The actress Pauline Quirk is opening a new academy for the performing arts (PQA for short) in Edinburgh.  There are many PQAs in England but this is the first of it's kind in Scotland.

My post involves teaching three age groups of school students, from 6 to 18, film and television skills every Saturday, culminating in several short films under one minute, and a main film at the end of the academic year next July. Needless to say I am very excited, and honoured, to be at the very start of such an exciting project. Hopefully more academies will follow.

Of course, September also means we are at the first stages of Autumn, my favourite time of year, when my garden bursts into colour. There's already that familiar smell and temperature in the air. I had hoped to be away just now before I start my commitment to PQA, but that opportunity seems to have been lost. Great autumn weather just now as well, so it would have been great, but there's too much to do at the moment. Other priorities have taken over for the time being.

One short respite was had though, on Sunday evening, when, for a couple of hours, I met up with some of my friends to climb the nearby Arthurs Seat hill in the centre of Edinburgh City, to watch the spectacular annual display of fireworks launched from the castle, in celebration of the end of the Edinburgh International Festival. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra play five classical pieces of music whilst a perfectly timed aerial display of gunpowder goes whizz bang above their heads. We were positioned some distance away from the castle, though at a high vantage point, so I took along a portable radio to blast out the music being broadcast on a local radio station. Needless to say crowds gathered around our spot to listen in as Tchaikovsky's famous 1812 overture ended the concert spectacular.

So a lot has been going on, and will continue to do so for some time to come I fear. I hope I don't lose all the autumn time, and that soon I'll be rewarded for all my hard work and find myself in more relaxing and beautiful surroundings of the Scottish Highlands in their Autumn coat.

I'll try not to forget next weeks post.