Thursday, 25 June 2015


It seems every time I meet anyone I know that is the first question. Nice they remember and are curious, but I thought I'd do a short blog this week to update everyone.

It was on the 20 March that I underwent three procedures on my right great toe to correct it's alignment, alleviate pain in the main joint and improve its movement. For those medically minded out there the three procedures were, an Akin, A Scarf and a cheilectomy.

To say there was swelling afterward is an understatement. The great toe itself was easily twice the size of the left one, and it was all wrapped up for two weeks in a dressing that made it look like I was wearing a giant ski boot underneath.

Back then I was told that after three months everything would be back to normal. That three month mark passed last Friday.

Everything is not back to normal.

There is still significant swelling which causes a fair amount of pain, and if I am on my feet all day then that swelling increases. That said though the pain level in the joint is all but gone, so there is good improvement. Flexibility was predicted to be about 70% but in reality I would say it's more like 20%. Though that is a disappointment it was reducing the pain that was the priority.

Based on the three month prediction I set about organising a challenging adventure on my bicycle, as a reward to myself for getting through the recovery. That adventure starts in two weeks time! I've been out training on my bike for the past few weeks, and my fitness has improved slightly, but I'm going to fall short of where I need to be for this new adventure. I'll tell you all about it on the 17 July. Meanwhile I'm off for a three-day cycle in the Scottish Highlands this week to try and push my fitness up another notch.

So overall I would say that although it has taken longer than I had hoped, it is going in the right direction. I'm not the most patient person in the world, but in things like this there is no choice.

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Together with my cycling friend Pauline, last weekend I ventured off on a wee cycle tour just an hours train ride from Edinburgh. We were heading for Loch Leven, a rough triangle-shaped body of fresh water, about 6km at it's longest length.

I've cycled here before but not all the way round. Not because it is a long ride, as it's only 13 miles in total, but because the path only went about two thirds of the way round. But all that changed in  May of last year, when, after 10 years of planning, the route was completed and the Loch Leven Heritage Trail was officially opened.

It is a haven for wildlife, and the RSPB have a visitor centre called Vane Farm at the southern end of the loch, and as well as flocks of birds, it receives flocks of Twitchers all year round, eager to spot that rare visiting bird.

Just a short distance from our start point we passed under a brilliant little shelter atop a small hill, looking out over the loch. It is part of the project recently completed, made from natural materials, and the path passes under and through it.

At one time a railway ran by here until 1964, and on the new trail it has been marked by a mural burnt into a series of logs standing vertically out of the ground. I love this kind of urban art on trails and paths.

What I also love is coffee and cake, and just beyond half way is Loch Leven Larder where we stopped for a short break, basking under the now sunny blue skies. Just before we reached the Larder we passed by a graveyard, and on its western corner stood a two-storey, square stone building, a Keep. Luckily I had Pauline with me who is a mine of information, and was able to tell me that it was built to watch over the graveyard from would be grave robbers in times long ago.

Speaking of times long ago (do you see what I did there?), right opposite was a Keep of another kind. Out on an island called Castle Island, stands the ruins of, you guessed it, a castle.  Apparently Mary Queens of Scots was imprisoned there in the mid 1500s, but then I find everywhere I go in Scotland Mary Queen of Scots either lived there, was imprisoned there or drank tea there!  So who knows. Supposedly there is a key on the bed of the loch that was lost overboard when she was brought out by rowing boat. By now I'm guessing it's rusted away.

The character of the trail changes as you come round the north end and started heading south. After the coffee stop we were in native woodlands, and the path twisted and turned as it weaved in out of the tall standing birch trees.

We were very lucky with the weather, as so far June has been appalling. Starting out from the train station at Lochgelly four miles away, we were under heavy laden skies, but by the time we arrived back at our starting point it was sunny blue skies, though there was still a chill in the air. Until the middle of last century the loch played host to curling competitions on it's frozen surface, but thankfully it wasn't that cold this day.

Another cycle adventure coming up in a couple of weeks, which you can read about here of course. All this cycling is building up to something pretty special, and that is coming up here in July. You'll just need to check back then to find out all about an amazing new adventure.

Friday, 12 June 2015


It's been a great period of good weather recently, and this inspired me to get out on my bike.

It's been almost four months since I cycled any sort of distance, and this week has seen me slowly building up the distances. Unfortunately the saddle never seems to get any more comfortable!

All of this build up led to today when I set off on a favourite cycle that I've blogged about before. It's approximately 37 miles round trip, from my home in Portobello to the small town I used to go to High School at, Penicuik.

However, I ended up adding a few miles. Over the past two years a new railway line has been in the process of construction, linking Edinburgh with the Borders region (which it used to in the 60s but this was closed. Now at great expense we're putting it back!!!). This building project slices through part of the cycle path as it crosses the town of Dalkieth. I've always hoped that they would eventually install a bridge connecting the two paths up again for pedestrians and cyclists. Today I discovered it has been closed permanently and there is no clear indication of where to detour. Thus I added three miles and a fair bit of time just trying to figure it out.

But that was all forgotten about as I trundled along the "rails to trails" route out to Penicuik. There was a strong heady smell in the air from the proliferation of wild flowers all along either side. I added yet more time to my journey to photograph them all.

What is amazing is that the two sets of photographs on this blog are only half of the variety that I saw over the course of the day. I have no idea what most of them are called, but together with the constant companion songs of blackbirds in the surrounding woods it was a joy the whole way.

Thursday, 4 June 2015


Every Saturday I teach just over 100 kids how to make movies at the Pauline Quirk Academy. They're split into three age groups, 6 to 8, 9 to 12 and 13 to 18, over two different academies, morning and afternoon.

We are now at the stage where the kids have to make a short film. Some weeks ago we started a process of all of them coming up with a short film idea. We then worked on each and they all voted for their favourite top three, and from there down to one script that we would actually make.

As a rule of thumb  one page of script is approximately one minute of film, and usually on a 10hour day shoot you can achieve about 3 minutes worth of finished movie. Well, these kids have only three hours to shoot their whole film!

So far we've made two films with the middle age group, and this Saturday it's the turn of the youngest. I'm confident that they'll manage it, with a little help perhaps. What I'm most worried about is the older, teenage group. Their ideas are great, but complicated, and as the weeks have gone by they've added more and more and we're heading towards an epic of Ben Hur proportions at the moment. It's possible we might not get their films completed, but there's a lesson in that.

Their imaginations are amazing, right from the youngest 6 year-olds all the way up to 18. Though as they get older they are less willing to take risks. Two of the films have a kissing scene, and it has been highly entertaining to watch those faced with this daunting task. Did someone say embarrassed!?

In a months time we'll break for a month for summer, but when we return they'll all be working toward more seriously involved films that we intend to enter into festivals. I know they can do it, they just have to believe it themselves. Maybe one of their films will make it to DVD!

Speaking of which, my own feature-length documentary Sleepless til Seattle went on sale recently on Amazon. In the hope of improving sales, yesterday it received a major push and I've spent most of today packaging up 25 DVDs for the USA, UK, Netherlands, Italy and Australia!  There's a couple more to go out but I've run out of packaging!

Be careful what you wish for!