Newhaverin Leith and life


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.

Filed under: Haverin' 1 Comment

Breaking bread

Secret supper clubs. They're just a good idea. What's not to like? You sign up, you're contacted with an address and a menu, show up with wine in hand and eat in a stranger's house with other strangers. Secret supper clubs have all the attributes of what I consider a damn good time- food, booze and meeting new people.

Last night I had my first experience with a secret supper club in Edinburgh, Aoife Behan's My Home Supper Club. Named Molecular Spectacular, the night promised good food fashioned by a mad scientist and the results were fantastic. We were warmly welcomed into a big beautiful flat with a delicious glass of fruity vodka topped with a layer of dry ice fog and it wasn't long until the food started coming. Soft and crunchy balls of cheese and toast, delicate balls of liquor shots, fresh Vietnamese broth into which I injected noodles from a syringe, slow cooked beef with frozen horseradish and frozen beetroot and the hugest array of moulded jellies I've ever seen in my life. Everything was so delicious and the mysterious nature of some of the dishes made for great conversation around the table. Now, I don't have much in common with a table full of City bankers but the atmosphere and the reason for us being together in the first place meant I could have been at a table of train conductors and it would have been cool.

I'm also really impressed with Aoife's (and any supper club host's) willingness to open their home to strangers on a regular basis. The neurotic in me wonders about safety and insurance issues but hosting like this is the ultimate in humanity. It's good to know blind appreciation and trust of people is alive and well.

I'm really looking forward to doing it all again and I'm collecting local supper clubs on Twitter to keep up with the news. Follow Aoife @myhomesupper, The Crescent @CrescentDining, Meena Bahna @ChaiLounge77 for starters and I hope to see you around the table soon.


I’m not racist but…

The riots in England generated a lot of conversation and chatter among my friends and acquaintances on social media channels. Generally, like in the press, there were two camps- the camp that that put blame at the door of a society that condemns poor communities and their young people to continuous generations of hopelessness (Camila Batmanghelidjh wrote about this beautifully) and the camp that sees punishment and threats of humiliation for young people disrespecting their communities as the solution to the problems, like what we're hearing from David Cameron. But there is something I have seen coming from my personal circles that I haven't seen so much in the press and that is unmitigated racism. From the mouths, Facebooks and mobiles of the people I would consider the least likely offenders came messages that were meant to be funny or profound but really were straight up racist. This confused me for all kinds of reasons- the profiles of riot offenders spanning the spectrum of our society and institutional racism perhaps being at the core of the riots among them.

Writer and radio broadcaster Shalom Auslander says there are so many reasons to dislike people, why go with colour? So when you feel your inner racist coming through, what is it you really dislike?



I’m faster than my couch

I call it my 'childbirth experience'. During it I was in pain, hot, irritated and I wondered why I made the decision to go through it in the first place but when it was all over I thought I might do it again. Yes, it's the half-marathon and for the non-competitive non-athlete it can be hellish- it was for me this April- but I've decided to do it all again in May 2012. The rush came to me last night while I was investigating the toenails that disappeared after the race in April and I can't ignore my gut feelings. I want to beat my time, I want to focus and I need to steel myself for training during the winter. There are lots of things I didn't do during my last training period that I will do this time round like the weekly Edinburgh Parkrun and the Sweatshop's weekly social running club in Newhaven. I trained alone last time and for me it was a mistake. I felt lonely and easily unmotivated in training and so I probably didn't do my best. I felt lonely on the day of the race and that definitely affected my performance. This time I'm getting social and I'm not going to talk myself out of joining a group because I'm not Flo Jo- I'm faster than my couch and I have solid motivations. Bring it on!

Filed under: Fitness 1 Comment