Thursday, 31 December 2015


Usually I'm fairly indifferent to another year passing, and my preference is just simply to go to my bed and let those seduced by the prospect of creating the mother of all hangovers do their thing. I've never really got that to be honest.

But this year, with just 30 minutes of it left, I can confidently say good riddance to 2015. There is very little I recall of it with fondness, and hope that this coming year turns out to be more fruitful.

The start of the year was great, as I enjoyed a weekend away with my buddy Pauline, through Loch Ard forest, with a circular route starting out of Aberfoyle, and a snow capped Ben Lomond as our backdrop.

A couple of months later and my outdoor activities were to be curtailed for a while, as I went under the surgeons knife to correct an old injury in my right foot. Thinking it would take just six weeks before being back to normal activities, I was surprised to find myself still limited some three months later.

Thankfully I was to heal just in the nick of time by the start of July, to fly out to Denver to cycle a 1000 route through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Less than two weeks in I came off my bike, which resulted in multiple injuries and brought my journey to an abrupt end. Nursing a rather large cast on my right arm, I continued best I could, using motorised transport, only to return to the UK two weeks later.

Two months later, at the end of September, and with plans formulating for getting back to full fitness, I found myself in an ambulance racing across the city to hospital, for an emergency subdural haematoma brain operation. This had been brewing away since the day of the accident. Then, another two months on in November, I was diagnosed with Graves disease, which causes thyroid problems. No one really knows what starts Graves disease, but on the list of possibilities is a severe brain trauma.

After diagnosis came the medication, but after three weeks of starting to feel normal, and once again making plans to get back to fitness, I was back in hospital with a severe allergic reaction to the medication. I am currently fighting back from this episode.

I've stopped making plans.

By no measure do my series of unfortunate events compare to the suffering of the peoples of Nepal during the earthquakes of early 2015, or to the continued challenges facing the people of Syria and the resulting refugee crisis.

So even with all that has happened to me, I do have things to be thankful for at the end of 2015. For one, the help and support from my close friends, even from thousands of miles away whilst I was laid up in a Wyoming hospital. And I'm grateful to the company Bell, for making a bicycle helmet, without which I would not be alive today.

So I say goodbye to 2015 and welcome 2016 with open arms, for the past is just a statement and the future is a question.

Friday, 25 December 2015


It's easy to say that this is a purely Christian time of celebration, but I'd like to think that it is more a time of peace and forgiving for all. More than any other similar type of annual celebration it does seem to have a global appeal. Some would say that is a myth, perpetuated by those who profit commercially of course, but then I'm not that cynical.

What ever you do today, whether it is spending time with family and friends, eating well, opening lots of presents, or just watching the Queen's speech on TV, take time to spare a thought for those who are grateful just to have made it through another year. Like the survivors in Nepal after the powerful earthquakes that destroyed a lot of homes earlier in the year. Or to the families devastated by the senseless murder of over 100 people in Paris. Or the countless numbers of refugees fleeing their home country away from tyranny.

I too am grateful to have made it through a challenging year.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, 17 December 2015


At the end of September a local power station was taken into the first stages of demolition when it's chimneys were brought down in spectacular style. You can see my film of the event at this link on Youtube

After the collapse, the thousands of people covering every square inch of the best viewing areas, waited with baited breath for the massive turbine hall to follow it.

And waited.

And waited.

Until a Tweet from the Scottish Power company came through stating their intent to demolish the main building, the turbine hall, in December.

This afternoon I was out having coffee with a friend at my favourite Portobello coffee shop, The Tide. As we left the place and stepped out into a sunny afternoon, right in front of us, across the other side of the bay, was a massive cloud of dust. The turbine hall had been demolished. Hardly anyone was there to see it come down. I personally would have liked to film it, but the chance has been lost.

Strange they never followed up with another announcement.

Here is the turbine hall on YouTube coming down today, filmed by Jim Ramsay. 

On Tuesday of this week I made my own statement of intent. As you may well know I had a serious cycle accident in July, and everything that followed, at one stage threatening my life. I continue to be very nervous at the thought of getting back on a bike, but they do say, that if you come off a horse you have to get right back on the saddle.

Trouble is I haven't been well enough to even attempt this, but recently things have started improving rapidly, thanks partly to medication and the care of the NHS physios.

So I took a big step, for me, in the progress of my recovery, and I bought a new helmet to replace the one that was destroyed in Wyoming. It's super lightweight, very ventilated and comes with a beak on the front to keep the sun off my face.

OK, so I haven't actually been on a bike yet, but Christmas is just around the corner.

Thursday, 10 December 2015


Aberlady Bay is a Local Nature Reserve 14 miles east of my home. It's been about a year since I wandered its landscape, and so, on a cold and blustery day, Pauline and I decided it was the perfect destination on a Sunday afternoon.

As we approached I could see a large tanker ship off the coast, behind the dunes, and at first glance it looked so large that it might be on the actual beach.

Having walked across the long, weathered, wooden bridge that is the start of the walk, I could see large numbers of birds on the flats, picking away at the grubs left behind by the receding tide. One of the great sounds of the shore, and one of my favourite that I hear all the time living by the sea, is the screech of the curlew.

The walk to the sand dunes is mostly open land, but at one section it weaves its way through tunnels of Sea Buckthorn, enclosing the path in tunnels like something out of Narnia. The bright orange berries of the bush are quite striking at this time of year when most of the other colours have gone, and they looked magnificent with the late sun streaming through their branches. The blue sky was a perfect contrast to the dark shadows of the tunneled path, and little creatures were moving among the dried undergrowth, on the hunt for food or escaping the heavy footsteps of people walking by, most oblivious to this other world, with a background of music from the little birds using the buckthorn's dense branches to roost.

Half an hour in and we had reached the far side of the dunes and onto the wide, smooth beach, with various patterns in the sand created by the rippling shallow water. As I wandered further along in the freezing wind, the texture of the beach changed as underfoot became carpeted in whole and broken shells, at their first stage of being ground down into fine grains to become part of the sand. Off the coast was the large tanker ship, but now it looked much further away. Maybe it had been an optical illusion earlier.

It was time for coffee and we hunkered down out of the wind behind a large sand dune as the sun started to set and opened our flasks.

Coffee slurped and cookies eaten, half an hour later we were back at the start and the sun had dipped below the horizon, dropping the temperature a few degrees, and the wildlife of this nature reserve settled in for another night, as we returned to our cosy home, knowing we would one day return to Aberlady Bay.

Thursday, 3 December 2015


I could never be a full time teacher I must admit. Having worked for the past year and a half for just one day a week with young students age 6 to 18, I take my hat off to those who can do that five days a week.

But I do love it. Their imaginations know no bounds, and in teaching them the creative art of film making, this is a big bonus. The key to the success of the classes is giving them control in how the films are shaped, and adapting my teaching style to their demands. When I first started I turned up with a list of things to teach them, but very quickly I realised that was the wrong approach. It was their feedback and interaction that dictated how the lesson was structured. It wasn't about what I thought they needed to learn, it was about what they wanted to learn. Now I create lessons that generate questions from them, and this makes them both more interested and more active in the class. In a sense it gives them ownership of the process.

It was with my love of teaching young people how to make films, that I have for some time been formulating an idea to run my own workshops in my local community, both as a business plan and as an extension to what I have a passion for. So recently I was pleased to have the opportunity to attend a local community meeting, run by the local community council, all about young people in Portobello and what they wanted. I looked forward to finding out first hand what their ideas were.

Imagine then my surprise to find a hall of around 60 adults with the average age of late 40s. The meeting presented survey results from canvassing 375 young people in Portobello. The aim of the meeting was to take those results forward and introduce new activities, clubs etc for the young people.

But not one young person had been invited.

The group split into six smaller groups who then discussed what could be done. I sat there dumbfounded that anyone would think that our ideas and plans would be greeted with open arms by the young people themselves. We needed to have them there so they could tell us what they wanted. I could see suggestions by us then being discussed and either taken up or dismissed. But in reality we were in a "cart before the horse" situation.

I put forward one idea of forming a group of young people with the same remit that this meeting had as its agenda, and left it at that. It was almost funny to listen to these adults getting excited about their ideas, and all the time thinking, "but what do the kids think?!"

I may not be a full time professional teacher, but I think I have a grasp of how young minds work.