Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Nope, still an atheist

Last night Edinburgh held the annual fertility and beginning-of-summer ritual, Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire festival.

Matthew Richardson:

“The performance has two main characters – the May Queen who represents the mother earth, and the Green Man who represents nature and the energy of summer. The festival takes the form of a procession around Calton Hill following the Green Man in his winter form, meeting various groups along the way, such as the Red Men and their Beastie Drummers. It ends with a ritual killing and rebirth of the Green Man, stripped of his winter guise and resurrected in his spring form. We then light the bonfire on the hill, representing the heat and light of the summer.”

People say Beltane‘s not what it used to be, but then… they always did.

I was not there. (The last time I went was in 1989.)

BBC Weather is set at Right Miserable for the next few days. So… still an atheist.

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Filed under Religion, Scottish Culture

SPUC off!

On 28th April 1968, the 1967 Abortion Act became law in England, Scotland, and Wales.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reminds its members:

For the twelve years before the Act, abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in England and Wales. The first Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths in 1952-54 reported 153 deaths from abortion, which was “procured .. by the woman herself in 58 instances.” The terminal event in 50% of illegal cases was sepsis but in 25% it was air embolus from “the injection under pressure of some fluid, nearly always soapy water, into the cervix or into the vagina.” The Report commented that most of the women were “mothers of families”. After 1968 maternal deaths from illegal abortion fell slowly but did not disappear until 1982.

This Saturday 28th April a different kind of organisation from the RCOG Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
will mark the Abortion Act becoming law: SPUC plan to hold a “kerbside protest” in cities across the UK, including Edinburgh.

The RCOG works to save the lives of both women and babies: SPUC tells lies.
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Filed under Human Rights, Scottish Culture, Women

Hustings for an equal council

Tomorrow (18th April) is your very last day to get registered to vote in the council elections on 3rd May. You’ve got till 5pm.

There were two hustings tomorrow. But the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce “Business Hustings” with all the party leaders on 18th April has been cancelled. (Contact them for information.) The other hustings, hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses and the Evening News, has all male candidates the panellists are: Jeremy Balfour (Conservative), Tom Buchanan (SNP), Andrew Burns (Labour), Tim McKay (Lib. Dem), and Chas Booth (Scottish Green Party). It’s in Bread Street from 6pm and may require a ticket for admission.

On Thursday 19th April there are four hustings:
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Filed under Elections

Waverley Station is an access fail

This is what it’s like to move around Waverley Station, right now, in a wheelchair.

On a Saturday in January last year, I slipped on a patch of ice masked by snow. I felt my foot twisting inside my boot in a way it just shouldn’t have been meant to. I landed on thick snow, and that was the last time I walked anywhere without crutches for the next six weeks.
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Filed under Disability, Public Transport, Travel, Women

An equal council for Edinburgh

On Thursday 3rd May, Edinburgh goes to the polls to elect a new council for the first time since 2007.

In 2007 we had the guddle of the ballots, and in the five years since the last set of councillors took office, we’ve had an economic crash, LibDems propping up a Tory government, the tenement statutory repairs scam come to light, a serious effort by the Tory, LibDem, and SNP groups on Edinburgh council to privatise our city parks and services (foiled when the SNP group switched sides to vote with Labour and the Greens), and of course… the trams.

Normally you can look at the previous elections and have a fair idea how things are going to go this time. But no one should take the 2007 election results as a guide. All we can be really sure of is that this time as last time, most of the councillors on 4th May will be men.
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Filed under Elections, Women

Vision for Leith Walk

Leith Walk is the longest street in Edinburgh and the one with the most character. It’s one of the most multicultural areas in Edinburgh. There are about eight supermarkets on Leith Walk and a few chain shops and franchises, and the usual array of charity shops and some ugly new pawnshops and moneylenders, but there’s also a host of local businesses, including some which are the best in Edinburgh for what they sell: Scottish scones and cake, Mexican food, Polish bread, Sicilian pastries, Bangladesh curries, Chinese markets, Italian coffee, Tattie Shaws for fruit and veg, furniture, clothes, electronics, books, art, music, excellent pubs, several cybercafes all of which provide good quality Internet, ranging from the very basic to the positively luxurious – Leith Walk is great.

And Edinburgh Council has treated it like crap.

The roads are in a state not even justified by the trams. The pavements are broken and unmended. There’s state-sponsored graffiti warning us that we’re in danger of being stabbed. It’s even difficult to cross the road.
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Filed under Elections, Scottish Politics, Supermarkets, Sustainable Politics

Edinburgh: Ban Chuggers

No one likes chuggers. Everyone has a preferred tactic of dealing with them. (Mine, if I can’t dodge them completely, is to say flatly and at once “I never give out my bank details on the street” and walk on. Occasionally they try to argue with me, but I’m not stopping for that.)

Andrew Napier claimed in 2002:

I’ve found that humour helps. ‘Do you want to hear my joke for the day?’ usually gets people to stop. If they listen to my lame, cheesy joke, they’ll usually hear me out about the charity as well.

Of course there’s a bit of flirting sometimes, but it’s a matter of definitions. If I talk to a guy, it’s conversation; if I talk to a girl it could be called flirting. Although I did go out for coffee with someone once…

Stavvers’ reaction in 2011:

“You’ve got a pretty smile,” another says with a creeping grin. “Come and talk to me.” He tries to grab my arm. I walk away, as fast as I can.

These interactions happen on a regular basis. Often it’s the usual, the leery-beery tiresome street harassment of daily life, the drunks, the creeps, the men who want to make women feel uncomfortable.

Sometimes, they are not. The men in the incidents outlined above are wearing bibs and told to harass women in the street by major charities. The techniques employed are identical. The objectifying icebreaker. The assertion that they “only want to talk”. The unwanted contact, the grabbing, the following.

The only differences between “chugging” and bog-standard street harassment is the bib, and the fact that you know exactly what it is that the chugger wants.

In Glasgow, from the end of April, chuggers will be restricted to 13 locations (half in the city centre, half elsewhere), a maximum of five at any one location on any one day, and will be out chugging only two days a week at any one location. The timetable and locations are listed here, to give you fair warning and blank them. This is the first regulatory agreement signed with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) in Scotland.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said:

“The issue of street-fundraisers is a source of annoyance to many shoppers and visitors to Glasgow. However we recognise that charities have the legal right to fundraise on our streets, but we must ensure that people working, living and visiting Glasgow are not inconvenienced by this practice.”

But really – is there any reason to tolerate chuggers at all?

A former chugger who wanted to remain anonymous told the Telegraph it was a lucrative job:

“I got £7 an hour, plus £30 for every sign-up you got after the eighth, which meant that the better fund-raisers were on a stupendously good wage. Continue reading


Filed under Charities

Elephant in Edinburgh on Leap Year

Arthur’s Seat, looking like a sleeping elephant, from Bruntsfield Links.

Arthur's Seat

Then I turned round and took a photo of Barclay Viewforth Church.

Barclay Viewforth Church from Bruntsfield Links

Sometimes Edinburgh is just pretty.

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Filed under of Edinburgh, Photographs

Tapas eaten by landlord

Just round the corner from Eildon Street, on Inverleith Place, there was a little general grocers. My late great-aunt lived on Eildon Street; she couldn’t walk as far as the big Tescos (and didn’t like it much anyway) or the shops at Goldenacre, and she hated letting other people do her shopping for her. The couple who ran the shop got to like her and she them and they’d order items specially for her if she needed them.

Then suddenly a refrigerator with beer and wine appeared. As the couple were devout Muslims, this surprised my great-aunt. They told her that they didn’t have a choice – the landlord had told them their profits weren’t high enough, they had to start selling alcohol.

The shop was burgled. The beer and wine were all stolen. The shop was insured against theft, of course, but the insurance premiums went up. The couple protested again about having to restock the cabinet, but the landlord insisted. Because the exterior of the building was listed, they couldn’t put a metal shutter up. The shop was burgled again. The landlord instructed them to restock. The insurance premiums were too high. The shop folded.

While it may get into the news when Edinburgh Council, acting as a private landlord, raises the rent on commercial properties and drives out business, they are far from the only landlords that do that. Tapa on Hanover Street has closed down now, and they identify a legal wrangle with their landlord as the problem.

I know of no details in the Tapa Hanover case, but the pattern I have heard about businesses in Edinburgh is that all too often, the landlord of a commercial property will offer it at initially quite a reasonable rate: a new business moves in.

If the business is doing well, profits are up – the landlord may even make explicit instructions about putting the profits up, the landlord renews the lease at a higher rate of rent to claw back back more of the profits. The business owner puts prices up, if they can – tries to win more custom, if they can – but even if they can, the more profits come in, the higher the landlord raises the rent. Eventually the business collapses. The landlord once more has an empty property to rent – beginning at a low rate to draw in the next sucker.

In this system, no one wins except the landlord.

There is solid legal protection for residential tenants against a landlord unreasonably raising the rent. You can even take your landlord to the council to have the value of the property reassessed, which can result in a considerable drop in rent.

But where is the protection for small businesses against predatory landlords?


Filed under Restaurants

North Fort Street. 5.45pm. Police.

Fort House with police cars from North Fort Street

This evening about 5:45, on North Fort Street (about 200 meters from Ferry Road) I saw three police cars. Two on the corner by Fort House, one on the facing corner by Lapicide Place. And at least five police. They were all gone about an hour later, established by cunning investigative journalism (ie I texted someone who I knew would be walking home about that time and asked).

Anyone got any idea what was going on there?

This has been your hyperlocal news query.

In other news, David Cameron does not know the difference between a month spent shelfstacking in Tescos and a month studying at university, which suggests his time at Oxford was totally wasted, as was he.

“We see this in the debate on education, put a young person into college for a month’s learning, unpaid – and it’s hailed as a good thing. Put a young person into a supermarket for a month’s learning, unpaid – and it’s slammed as slave labour.”

David Cameron was that student you see wandering dazed around the supermarket, staring thoughtfully at the text on the back of tins of baked beans. He was “learning”. I wonder what his essays were like?

“Bibble babble TOMATO KETCHUP.”

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Filed under Benefits, Education, Supermarkets