Newhaverin Leith and life


Leith pilots The Good Gym

I learned about The Good Gym from my friend James and I was immediately very excited about the idea and was convinced it would blow up in Edinburgh. So, after writing to The Good Gym to find out when and how they might expand (with the intention of trying to convince them expansion should start in Edinburgh) they wrote back with a guide to organising a group run in order to get a feel for the interest in Edinburgh for regular Good Gym events.

The original Good Gym model pairs people in communities who like to run or jog with less mobile and isolated people so the runner can deliver something nice to the less mobile person, have a chat then jog away. Not only does this help give support and companionship to the isolated person but it also gives the runner the motivation to keep a regular running schedule. As our initial go in Leith is just a pilot we can't get into the work of carrying out criminal record checks and pairing strangers so a group run pilot, as per Good Gym guidance, is just the ticket.

So, after a little while thinking about how all this might go down I got in touch with local personal trainer Tracy Griffen and local green champion and hyperlocal journalist Ally Tibbitt to kick things off. Ally has helped us by organising a community activity to which the group will run and sourcing some soup for after and Tracy has set out a short running route around Leith Links that is suitable for all skill levels. Tracy will lead the run with more experienced runners and I'll be bringing up the rear keeping a slower pace for those who would rather have a brisk walk or light jog. All the details you need to join are below but don't hesitate to get in touch with me here if you have any questions. Please spread the word!!

This is what is happening

We are piloting The Good Gym in Leith. This means we gather as a group and go for a short run/jog and the destination is to something that benefits our community. It's keeping fit and doing good all in one go. The run is for all abilities, even for folk who would rather just have a brisk walk. After the run you can take part in either a tree pruning session led by professional gardener Ben Dell as part of the Botanic Garden's Edible Gardening Project or helping to move trees, plant bulbs and pick up litter in the Children's Orchard. There are limited spaces on the tree pruning session so please register your interest on the Greener Leith Social.

Where and when to meet

We are meeting at the Leith Franklin Cricket Club clubouse on Leith Links at 10am on Saturday February 11th. The clubhouse is at the Seafield end of Leith Links near the bowling club and the allotments. Bring warm and waterproof or water resistant gear and water. I'll have a backpack so if you don't want to wear, carry or leave your gear on the ground I'll schlep it around for you!

There's soup!

Out of the Blue cafe is generously providing soup to those of us who last until about noon. How cool is that?

Spread the word and get in touch with me if you need anything. If the pilot is popular we will look at how we can organise regular Good Gym events. It would be great to get your ideas of how future events could be run and what they could feature.




I'm a sap and I'm thankful for so many things. I can't let it rest at a couple of things like being thankful for friends (although I am SO thankful for friends- who else would have me?) or having my health (I am neurotic about illness Woody Allen style). When Thanksgiving comes I think big. For all the moaning I do I really don't have any problems. My husband isn't a horrible man, when I want something to eat I know I won't go hungry, if I become ill I will be taken care of,  my drinking water isn't deadly drinking water. I'm content and I'm thankful for my circumstances. Are you? What are you thankful for?


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To be or not to be…a mother

One of my book group’s earliest meetings was to discuss We Need To Talk About Kevin, a fiction book in which a mother agonises over her son’s homicidal tendencies. Kevin’s mother was hesitant about having children, she wanted to focus on her career, but gave in because she thought it would improve her relationship with her husband. Does a child feel its mother’s dislike of being a mother and therefore become an evil person or is he just evil by nature?  This book gave way to one of the most heated discussions in our all female book group.

This book resonated with me on several levels. I am a woman whose mothers had children very young and who were career focused. I am a woman whose early professional life dealt with the sexual health of women who faced the pressure of having sex before they wanted to and having children before they wanted to. Lastly I am a woman who has known from an early age that I don’t want to have children. Or even one child. For me, in my life, having children is environmentally, financially and emotionally irresponsible.

Choosing to remain childless is difficult for some people to understand and hearing a woman, like the mother in We Need To Talk About Kevin, express regret at having children because it ruined her marriage and ruined her life, seems to scandalise people and women especially. My combined experiences meant I had a sympathy for Kevin's mother. When I’m asked by people how many children I have or when I plan to have children my response usually gets a frown or worse, the half smile and an infuriating ‘You’ll change your mind.’ I’m sure I won’t change my mind, thank you very much, and in fact my husband and I are planning for an addition to the family but in the form of a terrier.

We exist- women who choose not to have children. We’re not mentally ill, physically ill, we’re not selfish and we don’t hate children. Consider the other side if your initial reaction to a woman choosing to remain barren is surprise, confusion or disrespect. Imagine the tables were turned and saying to someone struggling on to the bus with a pram and an unruly toddler on a leash, ‘You’ll change your mind.’ Respect a person’s choice and don’t hate, appreciate!

If you want to take part in what is likely to be a heated exchange about We Need To Talk About Kevin, tickets are on sale at Filmhouse for the premiere of the film adaptation followed by a Q and A with the author Lionel Shriver for October 19th.

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Project Hot Body- the end… the beginning. Following an exclusion diet for four weeks has been incredible. I'm smaller, my fitness has improved, my priorities have changed and I've happened upon some long term positive changes. It's common sense stuff- eat clean, treat yourself right and get perspective- but it helped me to work to a plan and in a group to get over the threshhold. The rest is up to me and I will meet my goals. Kenyan style half marathon time in May?

If you want some support, training and good advice about living clean and getting fit and stronger get in touch with Mel at Healthy Ambitions. She'll get you sorted out.

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Over the past few years I've seen friends and colleagues in the Third Sector lose funding from traditional funding bodies with statutory and trust funding drying up and competition for what remains is so stiff it's soul destroying. To the poor bod having to fill in more and more funding applications, chasing even the smallest pots of cash and competing against their partners in the sector, the return on the investment in time can be small but essential to survival.

As a person who donates cash to charities and non-profits it isn't always clear to me how the organisation is spending the money, say following a campaign, and it often feels like a disconnect between me and the organisation whose work I'm so supportive of. So the connective emotion that prompted the support isn't really reciprocated. You press the pay button on a website or you hand over a tenner and that's it.

How can Third Sector organisations take more control over their funding futures and how can donors get better connected to the organisations they support?

Crowdfunding, that's how. Earlier this week the first ever (Scottish based) crowdfunding website for the Third Sector, SoLoCo, officially launched during Social Media Week in Glasgow.

Crowdfunding and SoLoCo allows projects, causes and organisations to funders to connect directly. No judging panel, no filling in of a multitude of applications and no mystery surrounding the project you're helping to fund and what it's doing. Donations go right to the project via the SoLoCo website through PayPal and from the project's page on the SoLoCo site you can link to their social media (all projects using SoLoCo must open a Facebook Group page to keep funders up to date with project activities).

There are currently 11 projects available to help fund including 2 Leith based projects, Leith Festival and Sikh Sanjog.

So now you have an opportunity to support national and local projects directly, have a stronger connection to that project and know that you're helping deliver essential services that are not offered by anyone else in the public or private sector.

Give in a different way.

Runners! Supporting charity in the run up to racing season? Why not give through SoLoCo?

Are you a Christmas time charity supporter? Log on to SoLoCo this time round.

Private sector! Mix it up by giving through this unique platform. You'll be the one on the cutting edge.

Someone like me who gives when they can? Check into SoLoCo, see what's happening and get a direct link to groups you really feel are working to make a difference for communities at a grassroots level. All the cool kids are doing it.

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Project hot body week three- introspection

Introspection has always been a throw away word to me owned by religious freaks and self help obsessives but now I own it too. The experience of cutting out food and drink that I'm used to indulging in has been difficult at times but facing that difficulty means I've had to be introspective, examine why I'm feeling defiant or frustrated and challenge myself. It's allowed me to revisit breathing and meditation skills I've learned through biofeedback, ChiRunning and a Samye Ling retreat (at which I think my body went into shock resulting in one of the worst migraines I've had to date- it was probably too much for a beginner) and it's rekindled the fire in me to practice mindfulness in running and in life. It's hard work, this meditation and mindfulness business, especially for a recovering neurotic like me, but the benefits are great. There are small things that have been cropping up in my life that I'm taking as cosmic confirmation my decisions to build on my meditation practice and keeping up the challenge of excluding foods are right like the emergence of buddhify in my world and that today's This American Life podcast (I listen religiously every Monday morning) centered around people's stories of living without. It's small signs of solidarity, of support and motivation and I'll take all that I can get.

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The beauty of sharing social media knowledge

I've had the great fortune over this year to be involved in social media surgeries and social media briefings to formally and informally share my knowledge about using and planning to use social media with colleagues and community groups. The appetite for consultancy on social media is huge, especially in small grassroots groups who could never afford to hire someone in and mostly just need help to get over the threshold by establishing the why, the who and then the how in that order- I insist. There can be a lot of anxiety about using social media for engagement, either because skill levels are low or because entering the social media world is so exposing, but watching the anxiety turn into excitement and ideas is very rewarding. In turn I've learned so much from people I've helped- community walking groups taught me about the mind blowing digital resource exploration site Europeana (I defy you not to get obsessed with it) and how QR codes could be the future of a layered historic walk experiences, an Edinbuzz patient gave me the skinny on Edinburgh's Innertube project, a colleague exposed me to the interesting world of local government Trading Standards professionals using Twitter (who knew?) and a neighbour told me how useful it's been for people in her university course to use Twitter to announce updates to their website, communicate about work and share specific information. How else would I know about all these wonderful things without meeting people because of social media?

And so it goes on. I'll be joining a crack team of volunteer surgeons for a Be Good Be Social social media surgery during Social Media Week next week in Glasgow. I'm waiting with bated breath to find out who's booked in to meet with me to learn about social media but equally I can't wait to learn from them about their work and interests.

The Be Good Be Social surgery is being held on Wednesday September 21st. Sign up here.

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Project Hot Body week two- virtue

I'm just past the two week mark in Project Hot Body, a project to slim down, change my attitude to food and drink and how I spend my time. While week one saw me nervously approaching a life of no caffeine or alcohol I'm now basking in the glow of virtue. Smelling wasted or hungover folk on my bus, watching as colleagues get yet another coffee to 'keep them going' and seeing someone tackle a meal of chips reminds me how good I feel for not doing those things. Smug much? Yes, yes I am.

It's only after cutting caffeine that I realise what an anxious person it made me and how unpleasant it was going into work pumped full of something akin to crack. I feel like I'm able to deal with stress in a much better way because I'm not on edge with a coffee high. Cutting booze has also made a world of difference to the way I feel and cutting it hasn't been difficult, definitely not as difficult as I had imagined. Getting the most out of this programme and improving my health and fitness far outweighs drinking loads of wine for no real reason. Missing out the many bottles of wine that would have littered two weeks of my life just goes to show how a goal and focus can make changing bad habits very easy.

There are a few things that I've noticed since the beginning of Project Hot Body that I hope will pass- clumsiness, decreased stamina during endurance sessions and cravings for sweet things which is really unusual for me. I know my body is going through all sorts of adjustments so I'll tell you next week how it's all going. I shouldn't be weighing myself right now but I did. 71.3 kilos this afternoon. You'll notice that's a drop.

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Project Hot Body week one- the weaning

I'm taking part in a programme of intensive Pilates, serious cardio and an exclusionary diet this month. No starchy carbs, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, wheat or gluten. I'm doing it so you don't have to- I'm taking one for the team. My motivations are to change my body composition, maintain motivation through taking part in this with a group, lighten up ahead of half marathon training (I registered yesterday- no backing out now) and to change my eating habits and keep the change.

The programme is an offering from Healthy Ambitions, an independent Pilates, health and fitness organisation in Leith. Headed by Mel, a legendary powerhouse of strength, tough instruction and enthusiasm, the Healthy Ambitions Pilates Fat Loss Detox Plan will probably kick my ass- I know Mel will anyway.

My first Pilates session with Mel is Tuesday morning but she's sent through information and a food diary to get me started. I've stocked up on beautiful whole food and I can't wait to get stuck in cooking recipes from Mel's cookbook she created just for this programme.

I started a week early in what I call the weaning week. Cutting caffeine and alcohol will be the most difficult parts for me while the food part is a cinch so I've taken the past week to really cut back on the coffee and booze. I've done really well this week and have already lost about four pounds with less booze and no starchy carbs or gluten and spinning and running.  Keep up here with a weekly update of the highs, the lows and maybe a mental breakdown. Watch me melt away before your very eyes....

At 31 August:

Weight 73 kilos

In inches: chest 38.5, waist 32, hips 41.5, thighs (R) 23 (L) 23.5, calves 14.5 and biceps 11.5

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Over-expressive, over-confident and over here

Honest, straightforward, hard working and ambitious or rude, obnoxious, a parody and kissing ass? North Americans, what with their straight talking, openness and positivity, seem to really make some Brits bristle. Before you read any further there's a caveat: this post is full of broadbrushing.

As an American living and working in Scotland for a decade now, I've had some pretty uncomfortable moments because of the way I express myself. I'm from the West Coast. Everyone is an armchair psychologist and everyone wants to hug and these are things I carry with me though after 10 years of strange looks and some actual negative physical reactions, I've had to dial it down. No more hugs but I'll still probably ask you, 'How does that make you feel?' and don't ask me how you look in that unless you're prepared for a pretty in depth answer.  These are things that, on the whole in my experience, don't mean I'll enter into the same type of conversation that I would expect from people from my part of the world if I'm offered a conversation at all.

I have a number of North American friends living here and we share the same tales of woe. Professional misunderstandings that lead to seriously ridiculous or hurtful situations, people taking offence at something we'd never register as an issue, inadvertently making people uncomfortable with a level of openness that seems standard to us and on and on and on.

But what's the problem? Is it the speaker or the listener? Interpretation is a problem, especially if negative interpretations are not talked about or questioned. So tell me how you feel. Let's share and maybe after we work it out I'll give you a hug and tell you how awesome you are.

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